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.”
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.”
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.”
We have also given a free, year-long extension to NHS staff whose visa is due to expire before March 31, 2021, and their dependents, so they do not have to worry about reapplying during this difficult time.”
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 London, Manchester, 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.
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]
Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine has argued that that NHS workers should no longer have to live under the threat of deportation. [Image: EEN]
Comprehensive immigration advice tailored to your circumstances and goals.
Designed to make your visa application as smooth and stress-free as possible.
Fast Track Package
Premium application service that ensures your visa application is submitted to meet your deadline.
Ensure you have the greatest chance of a successful appeal. We will represent you in any case.
The Advice Package
With our untimed Advice Session, our professional immigration lawyers will review your case and provide you with comprehensive advice, completely tailored to your needs and your situation.
The Application Package
With our Application Package, your dedicated caseworker will advise you on your application process and eligibility. Your legal advisor will then complete and submit your forms to the Home Office on your behalf.
The Fast Track Package
Our Fast-Track Application Package is a premium service for those who need to submit their application in time with their deadlines. Your case will become a top priority for our lawyers and you will benefit from our highest-quality services.
The Appeal Package
By choosing our Appeal Package, you can rely on our lawyers’ legal knowledge and experience to ensure you have the highest chance of a successful appeal. We will also fully represent you in any hearings/tribunals.