Visa extensions for NHS staff during coronavirus expanded to cover midwives and social workers too
Priti Patel appeared in front of the Home Affairs Committee to discuss the policy (PA)
Free visa extensions for NHS staff on the coronavirus frontline are being extended to cover more healthcare workers, Priti Patel has confirmed.
The Home Secretary said midwives, radiographers, social workers and pharmacists with visas due to expire before 1 October will receive an automatic one-year postponement before they need to re-apply.
And she said the policy, which was brought in last month for NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics, may be extended to the social care sector too.
In a letter to the Home Affairs Committee, Ms Patel said: "The disparate nature of the social care sector makes it a unique challenge when making specific immigration offers.
"We keep policy under review and are continuing to consider what more we can do to support frontline workers.”
It means approximately 3,000 health and care workers and their families will now benefit from the extension, which will also see them exempt for the Immigration Health Surcharge for the duration of it.
The Home Office said: “Those benefiting are providing essential services in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is important we relieve the pressure from the whole of the NHS, so it can focus maximum effort on fighting the coronavirus and saving lives.”
Ms Patel added in her letter that non-UK relatives of an NHS worker who dies after contracting Covid-19 will also be granted immediate indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
She wrote: "We hope the number of people who find themselves in this position is very small and our thoughts go out to the families and friends of all medical professionals who have passed away fighting to keep us safe.
"We continue to monitor the situation carefully and consider our response.
"I can confirm that any dependants in this very sad position will be granted immediate indefinite leave to remain, without a requirement to pay a fee.”
But the Home Secretary said she saw "no reason why" the deadline for applications to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) should be extended.
Facing questions from the Home Affairs Committee, she said: "The EUSS has been a great success.
"There is still over a year to apply yet. I think it's important to recognise that throughout [the pandemic] support has not stopped. Let me be really clear on that, support has not stopped.
"We are still receiving approximately 2,000 applications every single day. We are absolutely there still providing support."