COVID-19: ‘cruel’ health visa surcharge for overseas nurses is under review

Government to look at £400 fee overseas health workers have to pay to use NHS services

Home secretary Priti Patel confirmed the surcharge review at the COVID-19 daily briefing on 25 April Picture: BBC

The visa surcharge that workers from overseas are required to pay if they live in the UK is under review for healthcare workers, according to the government.

The charges, which equate to £400 per worker, or £300 per student, enable people from overseas to use the NHS.

RCN general secretary called for the ‘cruel’ surcharge to be abolished in December 2019

Home secretary Priti Patel said on 25 April that the measure was now under review for healthcare workers.

'You'll be aware of many changes we have already made around the immigration status and the visa status for NHS workers for extending their visas if they were coming up for expiry,’ she said.

'We have a range of measures that are, like most things in government, under review, and we are looking at everything including the visa surcharge.'

In the run up to December's general election, RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said the incoming government 'must commit to abolishing this cruel and heartless charge for nursing staff'.

Responding to Ms Patel’s comments Professor Kinnair said: 'The current crisis only serves to highlight the unfairness of charging overseas nurses working in the UK for healthcare services.'

Overseas healthcare staff expected to have UK visas automatically renewed free of charge

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Home Office also pledged to extend visas for the NHS front-line workers and their relatives that are due to expire before 1 October.

Anticipated to affect about 2,800 staff, the visas will be renewed automatically for a year free of charge.

Recent research by the Nuffield Trust suggests one in four hospital staff was born outside the UK.

Many of the healthcare workers who have died during the UK's COVID-19 pandemic have been from overseas, including a number of nurses from the Philippines.

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