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Published 2 June 2020
Recognising the immeasurable effort and personal sacrifice that healthcare workers have made in the interests of public health and wellbeing, the Home Office has announced a series of measures to ease immigration pressures. We look at what these measures are and how they will benefit healthcare workers in the NHS as well as the independent healthcare sector.
To help fight the coronavirus, the Home Office announced on 31 March 2020 that visas for some healthcare professionals would be automatically extended for a year. Initially, this was limited to doctors, nurses and paramedics with visas expiring before 1 October 2020. However, this was subsequently expanded to include the following:
Both NHS workers and those working in the independent healthcare sector are eligible for the extensions together with their family members.
The extensions are being granted without any cost to the employer or the employees and via a dedicated team within the Home Office. What this means is that eligible applicants will not have to pay any visa application fee, skills charge or immigration health surcharge which represents significant savings for healthcare organisations.
Additionally, those who have already applied for a visa can, in some circumstances, contact the Home Office team to get a refund of the fees they paid.
The Home Office has launched a bereavement scheme which offers family members of NHS support staff and care workers to apply for indefinite leave to remain. The scheme applies to both NHS workers and independent health and care sector workers who die as a result of contracting the coronavirus. The application can be made free of charge which will represent a significant saving for families during such a difficult time.
The Health Secretary announced a £60,000 payment to help family members of eligible frontline health and care workers who die from coronavirus.
The scheme covers frontline NHS staff and social care workers in England but similar schemes will be offered by Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. To be eligible, workers will have provided personal care for people who contracted coronavirus.
Currently, the scope of the scheme includes NHS and public health workers, GPs, dentists, retired staff, second and final year students working in paid frontline roles, employees in publicly funded care homes, home care, directly employed carers, personal assistants and frontline child and family social workers. It also includes cleaners and porters who work in a care setting.
The Immigration Health Surcharge is expected to increase to £624 per year per visa granted later in the year. However, there are calls to abolish it in respect of healthcare workers.
With the new Points Based System expected to go live on 1 January 2021 following the end of the Brexit transitional period, the charge will apply to new EU nationals who did not previously have to pay any health charge for coming and working in the UK.
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