Visa extensions and changes to the application process

COVID-19 sources of external staffing

Earlier this year, the Home Office put in place temporary measures to extend the visas of all regulated healthcare professionals across the NHS and the independent sector during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

A further twelve-month extension was announced on 9 April 2021 and more information, including how the scheme is being managed, can be found in this latest news article. The extensions apply to individuals whose visas expire between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2021. Please note the current scheme does not require biometry residence permits (BRPs) to be sent to the Home Office.

Right to work

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) continue to process applications and updates will be given as soon as a workers visa is extended. UKVI confirmed that there is no risk to employers or your employees of enforcement action during this time where applications for visa extensions have been made. Information for applicants is also available on the GOV.UK ebsite.

Change of employers 

The free visa extension scheme must not be used to facilitate a permanent change in employer. While there are concessions in place to allow workers with an NHS licensed sponsor to work within any NHS site and to carry out supplementary work in any role at any skill level during the COVID-19 outbreak, this is under the provision their current sponsor would continue their statutory duties.

Eligibility

The current visa extensions apply to a large number of professionals employed by the NHS, whose visa is due to expire between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2021, they are:

  • biochemist
  • biological scientist
  • dental practitioner
  • health professional
  • medical practitioner
  • medical radiographer
  • midwife
  • nurse
  • occupational therapist
  • ophthalmologist
  • paramedic
  • pharmacist
  • physiotherapist
  • podiatrist
  • psychologist
  • social worker
  • speech and language therapist
  • therapy professional.

You can contact UKVI's dedicated NHS mailbox with queries about these extensions by emailing UKVINHSTeam@homeoffice.gov.uk. You should also contact the UKVI NHS team if you have any doubts or concerns about an individuals right to work. Our understanding is that a vast majority of individual's will have no issues with their right to work during this time, including if they are still waiting for a BRP to be returned. 

Application process 

To identify those who are eligible, employers will need to complete this form and return to HealthExtensions@homeoffice.gov.uk.  

To apply UKVI are asking applicants to complete an online form, capturing their biographic and address details, which is available on GOV.UK website and submit a scan of their BRPs along with a selfie (to verify their identity) by email directly to UKVI. Details of this can be found on the GOV.UK website.
 
Once workers have submitted their forms and scans of their identity documents and selfies, and their application has been supported by employers via returning the simple form, UKVI will process the free extension. 


Visa reimbursement following free visa extensions

Individuals who are eligible for free visa extensions, and who may have applied to extend their visa normally before the latest extension was announced, can claim that payment back. This section describes the process for your eligible staff

How they apply depends on the status of their visa extension application.

If they’ve applied for a Tier 2 (Health and Care) visa extension they do not need to do anything. UKVI will contact them directly about their application.

Scenario 1: Eligible member of staff has had a decision on their application

They can claim back one year’s worth of visa fees.

To apply, they need to email UKVINHSTeam@homeoffice.gov.uk with the subject line “COVID-19 health extension - ex gratia claim” and include:

  • the unique reference number for their application
  • full name
  • passport number
  • name of employer
  • role within the trust.

They will also need to attach a scan or photo of a letter from you as the employer confirming that they will continue to be employed in one of the eligible roles.

If eligible, the individual will receive a one-off payment to the bank account used in their visa extension application. It can take up to six weeks to receive a payment.

If they have paid the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) as part of their application, they may be eligible for a reimbursement. Find out more about getting an IHS reimbursement.

Scenario 2: If they are waiting for a decision on their application

They can either:

  • wait until they get a decision, and then apply to claim back one year’s worth of visa fees
  • email UKVINHSTeam@homeoffice.gov.uk to withdraw the existing visa extension application and apply for a refund.

If they would like to withdraw the existing application, they must:

  • use the subject line “COVID-19 health extension - refund request”
  • include the email address used in their visa extension application. 

It can take up to six weeks to receive a payment. After they receive the refund, they can apply for a free extension. 

Applying in-country

Due to travel restrictions, individuals on visitor visas, for example doctors on clinical attachments who are eligible to secure GMC registration, can now apply for a skilled worker visa from within the UK, otherwise known as an in-country application.  

Individuals who would normally have to return to their home country to apply for skilled worker visas have been temporarily allowed to apply in country, for example doctors who have passed their Professional Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test. This is being kept under review; more details are available on GOV.UK.

Visa centres

Information on overseas visa centres and opening can be found on GOV.UK.

A number of UK-based Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) are also now open. More detail is available on the UKVCAS page on GOV.UK.

Language testing

English testing centres have also resumed their services. Individuals should be directed to the appropriate language providers' websites (e.g. IELTS, OET or Pearson VUE), or contact their local test centre for details.

Home Office bereavement scheme

The bereavement scheme was launched in April and offers indefinite leave to remain for the families and dependents of health workers in the NHS and the independent health and care sector. The scheme was extended on 20 May 2020 to cover NHS support staff and social care workers.

UKVI are contacting employers to identify those eligible for the scheme and will arrange for those affected to be issued with indefinite leave to remain. If further information is required, or relatives believe they are eligible but have not yet heard anything, enquiries in the first instance should be shared with UKVINHSTeam@homeoffice.gov.uk.

More details are available on the GOV.UK website.

Other changes

To secure additional capacity of staff on the frontline, the Home Office lifted the restriction on the amount of hours student doctors, nurses and paramedics can work in the NHS.

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