Questions and answers

COVID-19 sources of external staffing

1.Who do the automatic one-year visa extensions apply to? - UPDATED 29 APRIL

As announced on 29 April, the visa extensions cover all regulated professionals across the NHS and the independent sector who have a visa expiring before 1 October. Their employer must wish to continue employing the individual. The extensions initially applied to doctors, nurses and paramedics within the NHS only.

2. What will happen to dependants of staff who have their visas extended? 

The visa extension will also apply to family members. 

3. Visa extensions for individuals who cannot currently travel home are currently in place until 31 May. Will there be an extension to this date? - UPDATED 22 MAY

This has now been extended until the 31 July, meaning anyone unable to get back to their home country can remain in the UK until the end of July. This is separate to individuals in roles that have been granted the automatic one-year extension. Further information on this measure and how individuals can confirm their status can be found on the website. 

This 31 July deadline also applies to those who wish to apply for visas to stay in the UK long term, who are temporarily able to apply to extend their visa in-country.

4. Why does the one-year extension not apply to other healthcare staff from overseas who are here in the UK?

The government is prioritising measures based on immediate COVID-19 supply needs and capacity. 

As an alternative, staff are now able to apply from the UK to switch to a long-term UK visa until 31 May. This includes applications where they would usually need to apply for a visa from their country. More information is available on the website.

5. What about nurses working in social care and the private sector? - UPDATED 29 APRIL

The NMC has confirmed that overseas nurses working in the care sector and independent sector will have their OSCE timescales extended. As of 29 April, registered nurses will also receive the automatic one-year extension.

6. I have a member of staff who has applied for indefinite leave to remain (ILR). Will they now extend their visa, or do they wait for their ILR?

ILR applications which have been made will be honored and processed as quickly as possible.

7. Will overseas workers offered visa extensions have to pay the immigration health surcharge? 

No. Those these individuals will be exempt from the immigration health surcharge.

8. Do eligible staff need to apply for the automatic one-year extension?

No. Eligible staff with visas due to expire by 1 October will not need to apply for a visa extension if they wish to stay working in the UK at their current employer. The extension will be automatic and will last for one year once employers have identified eligible staff.

9. Will individuals be given evidence of their visa extension?

Yes. Individuals will be sent a letter that will arrive either to their home address or to the HR department within the trust.

10. How much more time will nurses be given to pass their skills test?

Pre-registered overseas nurses who are currently required to sit their first skills test within three months and pass the test within eight months, now have until 31 December 2020.

11. Do overseas nurses who are joining the temporary register need to pay a fee? 

No. The NMC is waiving this fee.

12. I work within HR in a trust – is there anything I should be doing or preparing to support our affected migrant workforce?

Individuals may have questions so it will be worth developing some local Q&A and placing these on your staff intranet to help manage flow. Overseas nurses will be directed to local HR and nursing teams for further information, so try to be prepared for any questions or concerns they may have. 

You should also be contacted by the UK Visas and Immigration NHS team and asked to supply information about all eligible staff whose visas are due to expire before 1 October 2020.

13. Is there functionality within the Electronic Staff Record (ESR) to record these temporary measures?

NHS Employers is exploring this with the NHS Business Services Authority, which manage ESR and will update employers in due course. In the interim, we would recommend that employers maintain a secure record of these temporary visa and registration statuses.   

14. The restriction on the number of hours student doctors and nurses has been lifted, but is there a cap in place to ensure health and safety?

Visit our COVID-19 working hours and working time regulation section for detailed information. 

15. I have a member of staff from overseas who is currently stuck in their home country or elsewhere outside of the UK. What are the arrangements for their travel back to the UK?

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has detailed information on its website for individuals who need to return to the UK. Some commercial and special chartered flights are still available. The UK government is currently prioritising the return of stranded British citizens to the UK. 

16. Can overseas doctors who haven’t yet passed both PLAB 1 and 2 join the General Medical Council’s register on a temporary basis?

As things stand, the GMC is not giving temporary registration to overseas-qualified doctors who are yet to pass both parts of the PLAB test. The statutory requirements for registration remain at the same high standard to protect patients and ensure registrants have the necessary medical knowledge and skills to practise safely in the UK.

Overseas doctors who cannot be given temporary registration who wish to contribute to the Covid response are able to volunteer for suitable roles in the NHS where opportunities exist. They must not undertake duties of a doctor until they are GMC registered with a licence to practise. 

NEW - 21 May 2020

17. What is the Home Office bereavement scheme and do employers need to do anything to ensure families and dependants have the support they need?

The bereavement scheme ensures that non-EEA family members of any health workers in the NHS or independent health and care sector receive indefinite leave to remain in the UK if the worker sadly passes away as a result of Covid-19. This was extended to NHS support staff and social care workers on May 20, and is free of charge.

UK Visas and Immigration are contacting employers to identify those who are eligible for indefinite leave to remain and will arrange its issue. Individuals should not have to do anything to receive the new status, but if there are any queries these should be raised in the first instance with

You can find more information about the scheme on the website.

NEW - 26 May 2020 - Updated 4 June 2020

18. How does the 14-day quarantine work and what does it mean for healthcare professionals?

We have received a number of questions from on the application of the quarantine policy announced on Friday 22 May. We have raised these issues with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on your behalf and can provide some initial clarity on the boundaries of the exemption for regulated health or care professionals.  

The exemption from self-isolation applies only to a registered health or care professional travelling to the UK to work. This could include, for example, any of your staff who had previously left the UK to visit family and who are planning to return as soon as this is possible.  
To qualify for the exemption, those entering the UK will need to be able to provide evidence that they are due to start work within 14 days, have professional registration from a UK regulator and an employment contract from an NHS trust or independent health/social care provider. Guidance has been published on the website.
Additional detail on travel can be found on the guidance for British people travelling overseas during the COVID-19 pandemic. Foreign and Commonwealth (FCO) guidance continues to advise against all but essential international travel.


Why Register?

Great reasons to register with NHS Employers

  • A personalised website
    Manage your profile and select topics of interest to you
  • Access your dashboard
    Bookmark useful content to help you quickly find what you're looking for
  • Get involved
    Contribute to our Talking Points discussions, comment on and rate our webpages
  • Keep up to date
    Receive the latest newsletters and media summaries

Log In