Frontline health and social care visas extended for one year
The Home Office have announced that the visas of frontline health and social care workers will be automatically extended for one year
Visas due to expire before 1 October 2021 will benefit from the change, and the extension will be free.
This appears to be a formal continuation of the extension from November, where the Home Office extended the visas for health care professionals expiring between April 2020 and September 2020 for a year.
The u-turn on the expiration of the visas in November came after pressure from trade unions and medical organisations, however it also gathered criticism because it benefited just 3,000 workers.
The Home Office say the latest change will benefit some 10,000 workers.
There are over 84,000 non-European Economic Area internationally educated nurses working in health and social care settings across the UK, and 13.8 per cent of all NHS staff state their nationality is not British.
The change is set to affect both the NHS and the private sector, and employees will be expected to verify their identity.
Home secretary Priti Patel said: “The dedication and skill of overseas health and care workers who are leading the UK’s fight against coronavirus is truly extraordinary.
“Thousands of them have helped save countless lives throughout this pandemic and are now playing a vital part in the hugely successful vaccination rollout.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “Our overseas health and care workers make such a vital contribution to our health system and have been a key part of fight against the pandemic.
“They are protecting our loved ones and vaccinating the public so that we can save lives and return to normality.
“To help those staff from overseas, we are extending their visas to provide security while they continue to tackle this virus.”
However, some may argue the timing - which would take the length of these visas to expiring when the UK emerges from the worst of the pandemic - is convenient, and does not provide the certainty health workers need.
A private members bill was put to the House of Commons last year over visas for health and social care workers, sponsored by the Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West Christine Jardine.
The bill, the second reading of which was cancelled, argued for “indefinite leave to remain to health and social care staff; and for connected purposes.”
The Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Nursing, Doctors Association UK, Independent Age, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, and Unison all backed the bill.