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Overseas NHS Workers Need ILR

There are growing calls for overseas healthcare staff to be granted Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) as a reward for their immense contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the government has offered a free one-year visa extension and introduced the Health and Care Visa, campaigners argue that these measures are not enough.

If you’re concerned about securing your long-term future in the UK, contact our client care team today on +44 (0)333 414 9244.

Please note: this article was produced during the Covid-19 pandemic and as such some of the information may no longer be relevant or up-to-date. Please reach out to us for the latest UK immigration advice. 

There are growing calls for the government to grant Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) to all overseas healthcare staff in recognition for their immense contributions on the pandemic’s frontline.

As it stands, there are approximately 170,000 overseas workers from a range of 200 different countries employed by the NHS, many of whom have been awarded a free 12 month visa extension by the government.

But according to growing numbers of campaigners, this one-year extension does not go far enough, and  granting ILR as the only meaningful way to reward overseas healthcare staff for their invaluable work during the pandemic period.

Eva Omondi is a nurse employed on the pandemic’s frontline. Speaking to ITV News, she said: “Seeing how [patients] die has been very emotionally draining.”

Uncertain future

Despite this, Ms Omondi’s work is made even more unsettling by the uncertainty surrounding her future in the UK:

“I want to make the UK my permanent home. The risk and the stress of working in the pandemic is enough price to pay to just ask for indefinite leave to remain.”

Campaigners are calling for overseas NHS workers to be granted Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) as a reward for their contributions on the pandemic’s frontline. [Image: Unsplash]

Introduced by the government at the end of 2020, the Health and Care Visa has made it cheaper and less onerous for overseas health workers to take up employment in the UK. In addition, the visa exempts its holders from the controversial Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).

But campaigners assert that these concessions are nowhere near enough, and more must be done in recognition of overseas health workers’ immense contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pushpo Hossein, a doctor from Bangladesh, became infected with COVID-19 within a few months of arriving in the UK for work reasons. She said: “I got high fevers, body ache. I also developed shortness of breath and that was very scary.”

Last year, the government announced its decision to grant ILR to all partners of overseas health workers who have died during the pandemic. But to Ms Hossein, the move fails to show sufficient appreciation.

“That makes me think I have to die to prove my loyalty. I feel betrayed sometimes. I feel very heartbroken.”

Private members bill

In January of this year, a private members bill aimed at granting ILR to all overseas NHS workers was delayed due to COVID-19 safety rules. Despite this setback, the overarching campaign is still in progress.

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said:

“We hear every-day about NHS staff who are contracting COVID-19. People who are doing that shouldn’t have to live with any possibility that they might be deported. That’s just not good enough.”

According to campaigners, the free one-year visa extension promised by the government does nowhere near enough to provide security to healthcare workers who have given so much over the last 12 months.

Future borders and UK immigration minister Kevin Foster said:

“We are hugely grateful for the vital contributions made by NHS staff during the pandemic and brought in a range of unprecedented measures to ensure the sector is supported fully.

These include introducing a Health and Care Visa, which provides fast track entry, reduced fees and dedicated support for professionals and their families, and exemptions to the Immigration Health Surcharge for health and care workers.”

christine jardine

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine has argued that that NHS workers should no longer have to live under the threat of deportation.  [Image: EEN]

How we can help

If you’re concerned about securing your long-term future in the UK, contact our client care team today on 0333 305 9375 for immediate help and assistance. We have offices located across the UK, including in LondonManchester, or Birmingham. You can also use the office finder to find the closest branch to you.

We are highly skilled in all areas of immigration law, from British Citizenship by Marriage advice and guidance to Spouse Visa application support, and would be delighted to assist with your query.

We can help you if you need advice or assistance about how this change to the Immigration Rules affects you.

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