Questions and answers

COVID-19 sources of external staffing

1. Who do the automatic one-year visa extensions apply to? - UPDATED 9 SEPT

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.

If there are any concerns about an individual's right to work at this time due to delays in processing their Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), organisations should contact UKVINHSTeam@homeoffice.gov.uk in the first instance. Our understanding is that right to work should not be affected at this time due to administration delays. We also understand that all BRPs have now been processed where full details were initially provided, although there may be some delays in receiving the physical BRP.

If organisations are having issues confirming extensions or are unsure about elements of the process, you are welcome to subsequently contact workforcesupply@nhsemployers.org and we can see if we are able to assist.

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

The visa extension will also apply to immediate family members. 

3. What is the situation regarding those whose leave has expired, but are unable to return home due to travel restrictions? - UPDATED 3 AUGUST

The government implemented concessions which gave visa holders with leave expiring between 24 January and 31 July automatic visa extensions. The Home Office has confirmed that there will now be a further period of grace until the end of August, which will give individuals time to leave the UK, seek further leave, or apply for an indemnity to allow them to leave on a later date.

The Home Office recognises that there will be some who, due to exceptional circumstances, will still be unable to return home before  31 August 2020 and anyone who fits this exception should contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) helpline. 

Employers should be aware that from 1 to 31 August 2020, the conditions of the individual's stay in the UK will remain the same. So, if  conditions allowed a staff member to work, they will continue to be able to do so during August 2020 ahead of their departure.

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. 

More information is available on the gov.uk website.

5. What about nurses working in social care and the private sector? 

The NMC confirmed that overseas nurses working in the care sector and independent sector will have their OSCE timescales extended. As of 29 April, registered nurses have also been eligible for 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 (IHS). Further detail on how the IHS exemption will work is due shortly.

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? - UPDATED 10 JUNE

Yes. Individuals will be sent a letter that will arrive either to their home address or to the HR department within the trust. We have had queries from NHS organisations about delays to processing these visa extensions; UKVI have confirmed that they are continuing to process all applications and updates will be given as soon as a worker's visa is extended. Demand is high and the department has had to adapt to working restrictions, however UKVI have confirmed that there is no risk to yourselves or your employees of enforcement action during this time.

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. 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.

12. 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.   

13. 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. 

14. 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. 

15. 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. 

16. 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 UKVINHSTeam@homeoffice.gov.uk.

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

17. How does the 14-day quarantine work and what does it mean for healthcare professionals? [UPDATED 30 JULY 2020]

Revised guidance on quarantine and self isolation has now been produced by a joint working group of the NHS Staff Council Executive. Please refer to this dedicated page for further details.
 

18. Are visa centres now open?

UKVI has confirmed that a number of visa application centres were to open in June. Details of which centres are open can be found on Gov.uk. A number of UK-based Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) are also open. More detail is available on the UKVCAS page on Gov.uk.

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