A government scheme exempting overseas workers from visa fees for one year should be extended to all care staff and NHS employees, a group of MPs has said.
A report by the cross-party Commons Home Affairs Committee says excluding care workers and lower-paid NHS staff from the fee-free NHS visa extension scheme is “unfair” and fails to recognise the scale of their contribution to the UK fight against Covid-19.
It warned that social care workers and non-medical hospital workers, such as cleaners and porters, who need to renew family visas this summer could be facing costs of thousands of pounds.
MPs say this “cannot be right” at a time when they are providing a life-saving service for the country.
The committee has welcomed the government’s decision to give free one-year visa extensions to NHS and social care workers in medical roles during the coronavirus outbreak. But it said the offer should be extended to cover all staff working in the sector.
Publishing the report, Yvette Cooper MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “NHS staff and social care workers have been heroes on the frontline against Covid-19 and they shouldn’t be having to wrestle with the immigration system or worry about their status or hefty visa renewal fees.
“Our NHS and social care system have relied on the contributions of those who have come from abroad throughout this crisis. Making the lowest paid of those workers pay thousands of pounds during the Coronavirus crisis when they are helping and caring for everyone else is unfair and wrong.
“The Government must ensure that all measures of support for NHS and care workers apply to all frontline staff equally, irrespective of grade or job title.”
Backing the amendment to the Immigration Bill, UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “It’s deeply unjust that thousands of care workers and NHS staff don’t qualify for this free scheme.
“It’s a costly process reapplying and one that’s stressful at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic.
“Many migrant workers are in a precarious position with their visas up for renewal during the crisis. They’re on the frontline looking after us – we must look after them too.”