On Friday, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that the government would be granting free visa extension to all foreign frontline workers, working in the healthcare sector. The British government has decided to provide free one-year visa extension, bringing much relief to those whose visas were about to get expired before 1 October 2021. The announcement was expected to benefit about 14,000 health and care workers including their dependants.
The list included doctors, nurses, paramedics, midwives, occupational therapists, psychologists and others from the field to help them continue their work in the country targeted towards fighting off coronavirus. The UK government brought the scheme for the first time last year in March 2020, which it claimed helped over 10,000 people.
While making the announcement, Ms 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. Our offer of free visa extensions shows how our country values the contributions of these heroes.”
Commending the government’s move, Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said many of NHS workers would be “relieved” with the announcement. She said, “Many have faced huge stresses and pushed themselves to the limit to treat and look after us all. It’s only right the government looks after them and makes their lives a little easier by granting free visas.” But she slammed the government for “overlooking” the care workers. She said that the scheme “should extend to all employees in health and care, particularly the lowest paid who need this help the most”.
With regard to the news, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, 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. This extension will cover healthcare professionals working in the NHS and the independent health and care sector. Their visas will be extended for a year, free of all fees and charges, including the Immigration Health Surcharge.” To avail the scheme the authorities said that the applicants just needed to fill an online form required to verify their identity and the system would extend their visa without any fee. Otherwise the cost of visa extension is about £232 per person for up to three years and £464 per person for three to five years. As per the scheme, the extension would be granted to health workers, their partners and children (in case they were under 18).