MPs demand free visa extensions for all non-British NHS and social care workers
15 June 2020, 12:08
Ministers are facing renewed calls from MPs to grant free visa extensions to all non-British NHS and social care workers, with many still paying thousands to stay in the country.
The cross-party Commons Home Affairs Committee said it was "unfair" that some of the lowest paid workers were facing charges while others were not.
The committee welcomed the Government's decision to give free one-year visa extensions to NHS and social care workers in medical roles during the coronavirus outbreak.
However it said the offer should be extended to cover all staff working in the sector.
"Excluding care workers and lower-paid NHS staff from the fee-free visa extension is unfair and fails to recognise the scale of their contribution to the UK fight against Covid-19," the committee said.
"Many of the excluded NHS employees - who include hospital porters, cleaners and administrative staff - are providing essential services to the NHS and its patients at this most trying time.
"They are also more likely to be in lower-paid job roles, meaning that the necessity of paying visa renewal fees is a much greater financial burden."
The latest call comes after the Government last month bowed to pressure from MPs from all parties and agreed to scrap the immigration health surcharge for all NHS staff and care workers.
The committee chairwoman, Yvette Cooper, said ministers should now extend the free visa extensions to cover all employees.
"Our NHS and social care system have relied on the contributions of those who have come from abroad throughout this crisis," she said.
"Excluding the care workers who hold dying residents' hands, the cleaners who scrub the door handles and floors of the Covid wards, or the porters who take patients to intensive care is just wrong."
Ms Cooper has said she is tabling an amendment with cross-party backing to the Government's Immigration Bill which would require ministers to change course.
In its report, the committee also urged the Government to make it easier for overseas health and care workers to settle in the UK.
"For those who have worked tirelessly to combat Covid-19, and who wish for it, the Government should set out new arrangements to offer them British citizenship or permanent residency in recognition of the huge contribution they have made to the UK health and social care system during the Covid-19 crisis," it said.
"We believe that people who have given so much, and in many cases risked their own health, for the nations and people of the UK should be assisted to become permanent members of the society to which they have dedicated themselves."