For a sector which employs many overseas workers, the news at the end of March of an automatic free visa extension for doctors, nurses and paramedics whose visa which expires before 1 October 2020 was welcomed by health and social care providers. This also includes an exemption to pay the usual immigration health surcharge fees which currently amount to £400 per year.
In announcing the extension, Priti Patel explained “doctors, nurses and paramedics from all over the world are playing a leading role in the NHS’s efforts to tackle coronavirus and save lives. We owe them a great deal of gratitude for all that they do.”
This extension was widened at the end of April and early May to include additional frontline workers and their family members across a wide spectrum of health and social care roles:
- Biological scientist
- Dental practitioner
- Health professional
- Medical practitioner
- Medical radiographer
- Occupational therapist
- Social worker
- Speech and language therapist
- Therapy professional
Extension qualification criteria
To qualify, the applicant must hold a visa due to expire before 1 October 2020 and work in one of the above eligible professions.
If an applicant’s visa is due to expire after 1 October 2020, they would be expected to apply for an extension via the usual channels.
The policy therefore applies to applicants applying between 31 March 2020 (the date when the first qualifying professionals could apply) to 1 October 2020.
Where an application is pending (having applied for an extension before submitting their biometric data) the applicant can withdraw their current application and request a refund of their fees and apply under this scheme instead.
Indefinite leave to remain
With the immeasurable contribution that health care workers provide, Priti Patel confirmed that family members of those key workers who sadly pass away as a result of Covid-19 will be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain.