Home office adopted a “scatter-gun approach” to visas for NHS workers according the immigration lawyers
The government’s promise to extend visas for all migrant NHS workers following the coronavirus outbreak has been questioned by immigration lawyers.
Adrian Berry, the chair of the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association, informed MPs that the extension which has been put in place is not in law, and only covers individuals on specific visas. He continued, accusing the Home Office of adopting a “scatter-gun approach” in its communication of the altered visa policy.
In the government announcement, released at the end of last month, it was promised that medical workers with visas due to expire prior to 1 October this year would have them extended by a further 12 months.
The Home Office has also promised that nobody would be "penalised for circumstances outside their control". They have reassured medical staff that the body will "continue to work to see if we can assist other frontline workers during this crisis".
It is believed that this policy will impact just under 3,000 NHS workers, in addition to their families.
Priti Patel, the home secretary, said that the UK owes the NHS a "a great deal of gratitude for all that they do... I don't want them distracted by the visa process."
However, Berry said that the government announcement did not apply to all medical staff who hold visas. While those on tier two visas, designed for those who perform a “skilled job” are covered by the announcement, others, including those on family reunion visas are not. The family reunion visa is designed for those who already have a family member in the UK, allowing them to join their partner or parent. At present Berry believes that a nurse on a family reunion visa is not explicitly covered by the government’s proposal.
In a written statement the ILPA, of which Berry is the chair, wrote that: "We do not understand the NHS to place less value on these staff, it is unclear why the Home Office appears to have done so.”
Yvette Cooper, the Home Affairs Committee chair, said that the information was “very troubling”.