Disclaimer: The NHS Automatic Visa Extension information in this article is intended for general information only in respect of the automatic visa renewal scheme for doctors, nurses and paramedics and reflects the position in the law at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated or relied upon as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.

The Home Office announced on the 31st March 2020 that doctors, nurses and paramedics with visas due to expire before 1 October 2020 will have an automatic visa extension for one year.

The automatic visa extension scheme will apply to around 2,800 migrant doctors, nurses and paramedics, employed by the NHS whose visa is due to expire before 1 October. The extension will also apply to their family members.

The Home Office stated that the purpose of the extension was to give frontline workers “peace of mind” enabling them to “focus fully on combatting coronavirus and saving lives”.

To get more doctors and nurses on the frontline, the Home Office has also lifted the restriction on the amount of hours student nurses and doctors can work in the NHS.

On top of these changes, pre-registered overseas nurses who are currently required to sit their first skills test within 3 months and to pass the test within 8 months, will now have this deadline extended to the end of the year as well. This will give overseas nurses more time to pass their exams, whilst they spend the immediate term working on the frontline.
Home Secretary Priti 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.”

The Home Office have confirmed that the extension to NHS visas will be automatic, there will be no fee attached and it will be exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge.

Although this will come as welcome news to many, there remains uncertainty as to whether the automatic renewal scheme applies only to Tier 2 skilled workers (who are sponsored by the NHS), or whether the scheme also extends to visa nationals in other immigration categories who are also working for the NHS in frontline roles (such as the spouse/partner category under Appendix FM).

There are also calls for the Home Office to go much further than extending leave only temporarily and several organisations (ourselves included) have already begun lobbying the Home Office to grant visa nationals working on the frontline settled/permanent status or even British citizenship in recognition of the vital role they are playing.

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