The UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, announced on April 29 a free one-year extension for foreign workers’ visas, especially those working in the health and care sectors.
Crucial frontline workers on the list include doctors, nurses, paramedics, midwives, radiographers, social workers and pharmacists. They will automatically qualify for the extension if their visas are due to expire on or before October 1, 2020. This ruling applies both in the NHS and the private sector and will include family members with a valid residence visa.
Who Qualifies for the Visa Extension?
The health sector welcomed the decision, but there have been conflicting information trickling down. There were earlier reports that the visa extension was not really free as foreign workers still need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge fee. This prompted many to decry the unfair surcharge fees that have become a deterrent to foreign healthcare professionals. Some say workers mostly just wait for their visas to expire then leave instead of applying for an extension as they cannot afford the high fees.
There were also reports that only NHS workers holding a Tier 2 work visa would qualify for the automatic extension. Tier 2 work visa permits skilled foreign workers to acquire a job in the UK for the long term. It covers a wide range of industries, including information technology, accountancy, education and health care.
The Home Office, however, made it clear in its latest announcement that the visa extension is free, and all will be exempt from the Surcharge fee.
Anyone facing issues or complications with their Tier 2 visa should, however, consult a solicitor that handles such cases to make sure they won’t be having problems during the extension period.
Call for More Visa Extension Coverage
The visa extension scheme is set to benefit 3,000 healthcare workers and their families. Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, expressed gratitude to these workers “for protecting the vulnerable and saving lives.”
But some still raised concerns that the visa extension scheme excluded agency workers, like cleaners and porters employed by private hospitals.
Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA) chair, Adrian Berry, argued that the scheme “should be extended to hospital porters, healthcare assistants, and cleaners working for the NHS. These are the sort of people that without whom, hospitals could not function properly. The scheme should not be limited to a certain type of NHS worker.”
Coronavirus Statistics in the UK
As of this writing, there are over 233,000 confirmed cases in the UK and over 33,000 recorded deaths. England recorded the highest cases at 140, 275 while Northern Ireland had the lowest at 4,291.
Meanwhile, global cases have passed 4.7 million, and at least 300,000 have died.
On May 17, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the rules for easing the lockdown that started March 23. The lockdown limited people from leaving homes to shopping for basic necessities, one form of exercise per day, medical need or providing care for someone and travelling to work for frontline workers.
Under the eased lockdown, people are now allowed to go to work, and some shops will open in a bid to restart the economy.