Eligible health care workers from overseas are able to extend their Visa free of charge for a 12 month period.
This concession, first introduced when the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit in early 2020, was initially for doctors, nurses and paramedics seeking a visa extension. It was subsequently extended to other front-line positions on 29th April 2020.
It was established initially for qualifying individuals whose visas were due to expire between 31st March 2020 and 1st October 2020. However, due to the ongoing situation with COVID-19, the UK government has extended the route for those whose status is expiring up to 31st March 2021.
Health Care Workers eligible for the free Visa extension
In order to qualify, you must:
- Work for the NHS or an independent health care provider;
- Work within one of the eligible job roles;
- Be continuing to work for the same employer; and
- Currently have a visa that expires between 1st October 2020 and 31st March 2021.
Eligible job roles for free UK Visa extension
- Biological scientist
- Dental practitioner
- Health professional
- Medical practitioner
- Medical radiographer
- Occupational therapist
- Social worker
- Speech and language therapist
- Therapy professional
How to apply for a free UK Visa extension
We can initiate your application by registering your details online and submitting a copy of your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) and a photograph.
UKVI will contact your employer to verify your eligibility. If successful, you will be granted a further 12 months leave to remain and be issued with a new BRP.
How long will the free UK Visa extension take?
Most cases are concluded within 4 weeks of submitting the application and supporting documentation.
What about UK Visa extensions for family members?
If you qualify for the free 12-month extension, then your dependant partner and/or child(ren) may also be eligible for a free extension, if their own visa expires between 1st October 2020 and 31st March 2021.
They must already be a dependent on your visa and be included as a dependant when completing the online form.
What if you have already applied and paid for your UK Visa extension?
If you have previously applied and your status has been granted, you can claim back the fees for one year of the visa duration. Email the UKVI NHS team at UKVINHSTeam@homeoffice.gov.uk.
The subject line of your email must be “COVID-19 health extension – ex gratia claim” and you will need to include all of the following information in the email:
- Your unique application reference number
- Your full name
- Your passport number
- Your employer
- Your job role
In addition, you must provide a letter from your employer confirming they will continue to employ you in one of the eligible job roles.
If you have made your application and not yet received a decision then you have 2 choices. Either:
- Make a claim for a refund, as above, once you have received a decision on your application; or
- If your application is still pending, email the UVKI NHS team to withdraw your application and apply for a refund. If you choose this option, you should consider any negative impact on your legal status in the UK if you withdraw your application and your previous status has already expired.
What if you are an EU, EEA or Swiss Citizen?
If you are a health care worker already in the UK and resident on or before 11:00pm on 31st December 2020, you can instead apply to regulate your status under the EU Settlement Scheme. This application must be made by 30th June 2021.
For those that didn’t arrive in the UK before the end of 2020, a new Health and Care Worker Visa has been introduced. This is for anyone seeking to come to the UK to work in one of the specified health care occupations.
Health and Care Visa
In 2020, the UK government introduced the Health and Care Worker visa, a specialised category for individuals who are applying under the Skilled Worker route to fill certain health care worker roles.
The benefits of the Health and Care Visa
- Reduced application fees (usually £232.00 per person for stays of up to 3 years in the UK or £464.00 for more than 3 years).
- Exemption from Immigration Health Surcharge payments
- Fast-tracked entry to the UK
- A dedicated support team within UKVI
Who is eligible for the Health and Care Visa?
This route was launched on 4th August 2020 for qualified doctors, nurses and certain other health professions, trained to a recognised standard
It is open to individuals overseas who are applying for entry clearance and those who are already lawfully in the UK and eligible to apply for further leave to remain under the Skilled Worker route.
An employer is responsible for informing you that you are eligible to apply for the Health and Care Worker visa. This would be where you:
- Are continuing in, or taking up, a job in one of the below specified health care occupations set out in the list of Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes; and
|SOC Code||Eligible Job Role|
|2112||Biological scientists and biochemists|
|2219||Health professionals that are ‘not elsewhere classified’, such as audiologists and occupational health advisers|
|2223||Speech and language therapists
|2229||Therapy professionals that are ‘not elsewhere classified’, such as osteopaths and psychotherapists|
- Have a genuine job offer from a UK health and care sector employer, which has been approved by the Home Office.
What requirements have to be met for the Health and Care Visa?
If you are able to satisfy the above eligibility criteria, you are also required to meet the requirements for Skilled Workers generally. This means that you must:
- Have been assigned a valid Certificate of Sponsorship by a sponsoring employer. This is an electronic record and will have a unique number which you can use to make your visa application and must contain details of how they meet the eligibility criteria above.
- Be paid the minimum salary, usually £20,480.00, or the ‘going rate’ – whichever is higher. The exact amount which must be paid will depend on the job in question.
- Have sufficient personal savings when arriving in the UK, unless your employer certifies your maintenance for the first month of employment
- Be able to prove you can read, write, speak and understand English to at least level B1 on the CEFR scale, unless you are exempt.
- Have valid tuberculosis test results, if applying to enter and are coming from a listed country.
- Be able to provide a criminal record certificate from any country where you have lived for 12 months or more within the last 10 years, if you are applying from outside the UK and you will be working with vulnerable people
How long will the Health & Care Visa take?
Most applicants receive a decision within 3 weeks of their biometric information (fingerprints and photograph) being provided.
What about family members?
If eligible, your partner and children can apply to join you or stay with you in the UK as your dependant(s). If successful, their visas will be granted in line with your own expiry date.
They will also be able to benefit from the reduced application fees and the exemption from paying the Immigration Health Surcharge payment
This article has been brought to you by Kirsty Tufrey, Immigration Solicitor. For advice and support in securing an extension to your visa or to discuss the Health & Care visa, please contact Kirsty Tufrey or Gooch Heer on 020 7205 2115
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