The global pandemic has shed a light on many ugly areas in the UK’s immigration system and could potentially bring about lasting change.
So far, over 700 people in detention centres have been temporarily released, including asylum seekers and those ensnared in the bail process.
Those with visas such as a Work Visa or Spouse Visa have further been granted free temporary visa extensions, initially starting in January through to May but has now been extended again from May through to July.
However, the area that has been revitalised the most is found in the immigration rules for NHS and healthcare workers.
The global pandemic has shed a light on many ugly areas in the UK’s immigration system and could potentially bring about lasting change
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, public support in the UK has rocketed for healthcare staff who are risking their lives on the frontlines to save others, many of whom come from overseas.
Following from monumental public pressure and scrutiny in Parliament, the Home Office has amended its immigration rules to support healthcare staff.
At the time of writing, the Immigration Health Surcharge – the levy migrants pay to access the UK healthcare system alongside their visa – has been axed entirely for NHS staff. The fee that is set to rise to £625 in October 2020 will still apply to non-healthcare workers with an average lump sum of £3,125 for a five-year visa.
In addition, NHS staff whose visa permission will meet its expiry before 1 October 2020 will automatically receive a visa extension of up to one year.
But many feel the measures don’t go far enough with cross-party MPs plotting to table an amendment to the Immigration Bill that would grant NHS workers full British Citizenship. According to one survey by the London School of Economics, the majority of UK citizens (61%) support the initiative to grant permanent residency to health workers.
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, claims to be keeping “everything under review” as the Coronavirus outbreak continues to unfold, including immigration measures. Patel said that she would consider granting NHS staff full British Citizenship.
Patel said that she would consider granting NHS staff full British Citizenship.
The path to full citizenship rights usually entails passing continuous residency in the UK for a minimum of five years and living in the UK for at least 12 months under Indefinite Leave to Remain status. It is certainly a long, if not costly, process for may applicants.
But that is not all: MPs may soon be debating whether to extend immigration relief for migrant care staff. In line with doctors and nurses, care workers may soon have their visas extended automatically for another 12 months.
The debate comes as family members of migrant healthcare workers, including cleaners, porters and care workers have been granted access to the COVID-19 Bereavement Scheme. The scheme grants family members of staff who have died during the pandemic Indefinite Leave to Remain. Had this measure not been implemented, family members who lose loved ones due to Coronavirus may have faced forceful removal from the country.
In line with doctors and nurses, care workers may soon have their visas extended automatically for another 12 months.
Patel said: “Our immigration system is incredibly complex and I think this crisis has demonstrated that and shown the extent of that complexity too.
“You’ve mentioned citizenship and changes that we could bring in – that would need legislation going forward.
“But, as I’ve said, we keep everything under review.”
If you need advice or assistance with your visa or immigration status, get in touch with IAS today. Our lawyers are well aware of the events unfolding and continue to remain up to date with the COVID-19 news and any impacts the pandemic may have on visa nationals.
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