AGENCIES, London: Unlike the US where many H1-B visa holders may have to leave the country in June due to economic uncertainties, Indians and other foreign health and care professionals employed on work visas across the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK are set to benefit from a further free visa extension. The decision was announced by Home Secretary Priti Patel on Wednesday.
These key workers, including midwives, radiographers, social workers and pharmacists with visas due to expire before October 1, will receive an automatic one-year extension.
The Indian-origin Cabinet minister said that the extension will apply to those working both in the National Health Service (NHS) as well as the independent sector, and also include their family members.
The latest move builds on Patel’s announcement last month of a similar fee-free extension for NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics on the COVID-19 frontline.
“We are incredibly grateful to all overseas health and care workers fighting this invisible enemy,” said Patel.
“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,” she said.
The complete list of NHS roles being granted this option includes nurses, midwives, pharmacists, medical radiographers, paramedics, therapy professionals, occupational therapists, podiatrists, speech and language therapists, psychologists, biological scientists and biochemists, medical practitioners, dental practitioners and social workers.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Frontline health and social care workers from overseas are doing extraordinary work in responding to this global outbreak.
“Around 3,000 vital health and care workers and their families will benefit from the extension, and we are hugely grateful to them for protecting the vulnerable and saving lives.”
The government has said that those benefiting from the extension are providing essential services in response to the coronavirus pandemic and therefore it is important to “relieve the pressure” from the whole of the NHS, so it can focus maximum efforts on fighting the deadly virus.
The extension comes into effect immediately and is for all visas expiring between March 31 and October 1, 2020.
The move follows some concerns raised by immigration lawyers and experts around the statutory backing for Patel’s announcement of NHS visa extensions earlier this month. It was feared that it would cover only some work visa categories and not others.