Priti Patel Visa Extension

Priti Patel Announces More Visa Extensions for Migrant Health Workers

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UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced that automatic visa extensions will be granted to more migrant health and care workers who have been serving on the frontline in the battle against coronavirus.

The automatic one-year visa extension will apply to midwives, radiographers, social workers and pharmacists whose current stay in the UK is due to expire before 1st October 2020. Patel added that all extensions will be free and include exemption from the controversial Immigration Health Surcharge (HIS).

The distinguishing feature of this announcement is that visa extensions apply to migrant frontline workers working both in the NHS and in the independent sector.

This welcome news comes after the government announced in March that migrant NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics are eligible for automatic visa extensions.

The distinguishing feature of this announcement is that visa extensions apply to migrant frontline workers working both in the NHS and in the independent sector.

Priti Patel
[Priti Patel announced visa extensions for more migrant health workers on Wednesday. Image: BBC]

The Home Secretary said:

“We are incredibly grateful to all overseas health and care workers fighting this invisible enemy”…

We have already announced the extension of visas for NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics. Now we are going further by extending this offer to hundreds of other frontline health and care workers, both in the NHS and in the independent sector.”

Around 3,000 NHS Migrant Workers Could Benefit

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that around 3,000 NHS migrant workers could benefit from the latest announcement of visa extensions.

Mr Hancock said that frontline health and social workers from overseas were “doing extraordinary work in responding to this global outbreak” and that “we are hugely grateful to them for protecting the vulnerable and saving lives.”

Visa Extensions for all Migrant NHS Workers?

One of the burning questions which many immigration advocates are asking is whether visa extensions will eventually be granted to all migrant NHS workers, and not just those on the frontline.

Ms Patel explained that ministers are still considering how best to support frontline workers.

During the Home Affairs Select Committee video conference, Priti Patel was asked whether visa extensions would be granted to migrant NHS workers such as cleaners and agency workers.

NHS Cleaner
[Migrant hospital cleaners are some of the workforce who are not included in the latest visa extension scheme. Image: nurses.co.uk]

Ms Patel explained that ministers are still considering how best to support frontline workers.

She said: “The Government recognises the huge importance of the health and social care sector, who are providing vital services following the coronavirus outbreak… 

That is why we announced automatic visa extensions to NHS frontline workers, doctors, paramedics and nurses and their families. 

We recognise that all NHS staff are contributing to this tremendous effort, and the Government is continuing to consider our options carefully and provide a wide range of support to those supporting our efforts against COVID-19.”

Indefnite Leave to Remain for Families of NHS Workers Who Have Died

The Home Secretary also announced that family members of migrant NHS workers who have died as a result of Covid-19 will receive automatic Indefinite Leave to Remain status.

Ms Patel said: “We hope the number of people who find themselves in this position is very small and our thoughts go out to the families and friends of all medical professionals who have passed away fighting to keep us safe. 

‘We continue to monitor the situation carefully and consider our response. I can confirm that any dependants in this very sad position will be granted immediate indefinite leave to remain, without a requirement to pay a fee.” 

A Rethink of Immigration Policy?

At a time when the contribution of migrant workers to the NHS is becoming more widely understood and appreciated throughout the country, it seems that the government is edging towards a rethink on immigration policy.

Granted, these are exceptional times, but the hardline government rhetoric on immigration has largely fallen silent since the UK went into lockdown in March.  

This is a far cry from the Conservative’s tough words on immigration which fuelled the party’s success in the 2019 General Election. Perhaps Patel’s curiously ambivalent views towards the benefits of immigration may evolve as a result of Covid-19. One can only hope.

[Main image credit: WalesOnline]