London, Apr 9 (PTI) Indian doctors and nurses are among 14,000 applicants from across the world that are set to benefit from a one-year fee waiver for visa extensions announced on Friday for frontline workers dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UK Home Office said that the free one-year visa extensions will be automatically granted to eligible overseas health and care workers and their dependents whose visas were due to expire before October 1.
The extension will cover healthcare professionals working in the National Health Service (NHS) and the independent health and care sector, which includes a large number of Indian professionals.
“The dedication and skill of overseas health and care workers who are leading the UK’s fight against coronavirus is truly extraordinary,” said UK Home Secretary Priti Patel.
“Thousands of them have helped save countless lives throughout this pandemic and are now playing a vital part in the hugely successful vaccination rollout. Our offer of free visa extensions shows how our country values the contributions of these heroes,” she said.
Periodic free visa extensions for health workers have been announced since last year at the peak of the pandemic and the Home Office said it has extended the visas of more than 10,000 people across the UK.
The latest extension is intended for doctors, nurses, paramedics, midwives, occupational therapists, psychologists and others to be able to continue their crucial work in the fight against coronavirus as their visas will be extended for a year, free of all fees and charges, including the Immigration Health Surcharge.
“Our overseas health and care workers make such a vital contribution to our health system and have been a key part of the fight against the pandemic. They are protecting our loved ones and vaccinating the public so that we can save lives and return to normalcy,” said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
“To help those staff from overseas, we are extending their visas to provide security while they continue to tackle this virus,” he said.
The Home Office said that those benefiting from this extension will need to complete a simple online form to verify their identity, with employers asked to confirm eligibility.
It also highlighted that the new Health and Care Visa, which launched in August last year, would make it 'easier, cheaper and quicker' for the global health professionals to work in the NHS, the social care sector and for those organisations which provide commissioned services to the NHS. So far, more than 20,000 people have been granted a visa through the route.
Last year, the Home Office also expanded the Bereavement Scheme to all NHS, health and social care workers to support the family of frontline healthcare workers who die in the line of frontline duties. PTI AK CPS