Coronavirus: Priti Patel extends migrant NHS workers' visas to fight pandemic

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Home secretary Priti Patel has extended migrant workers' visas. (Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment)

The UK government has extended the visas of thousands of migrant health workers and their relatives as the NHS grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

Doctors, nurses and paramedics and their families with visas due to expire before October will automatically be given a free one-year visa extension.

Home secretary Priti Patel, who has sparked controversy through the government’s crackdown on low-skilled migration, said Britain owed migrant NHS workers “a great deal of gratitude.”

The move is expected to affect around 2,800 NHS staff, as well as their relatives in the UK. The Home Office said in a press release the move would give staff “peace of mind” and allow them to focus on treating the seriously ill.

Read more: NHS and supermarket staff can delay leave as holiday rules torn up

Patel said: “Doctors, nurses and paramedics from all over the world are playing a leading role in the NHS’s efforts to tackle coronavirus and save lives. We owe them a great deal of gratitude for all that they do.

“I don’t want them distracted by the visa process. That is why I have automatically extended their visas – free of charge – for a further year.”

Trainee doctors and nurses will also see restrictions on the number of hours they can work in the NHS during term time lifted.

Read more: Patel warns firms’ immigration demand would ‘recreate free movement’

It is one of many ways the government has loosened rules and regulations to ease pressure on the NHS, supermarkets and other organisations.

All workers can also now delay their annual leave by up to two years, after the government tore up holiday rules. Workers currently risk losing their time off and employers risk fines if annual leave is not taken within a certain period.