Thousands of overseas frontline health and care workers and their dependents will benefit from free visa extensions.
The one-year visa extensions will be automatically granted to health workers whose visas are due to expire before October 1, 2021.
The Home Office has extended the visas for more than 10,000 people across the UK since starting the free extensions last year. As many as 14,000 additional applicants are expected to receive an extension.
The extension will provide security for doctors, nurses, paramedics, midwives, occupational therapists, psychologists and other health care staff, allowing them to continue carrying out their crucial work during the pandemic.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The dedication and skill of overseas health and care workers who are leading the UK’s fight against coronavirus is truly extraordinary.
“Thousands of them have helped save countless lives throughout this pandemic and are now playing a vital part in the hugely successful vaccination rollout.”
The extension will cover healthcare professionals working in the NHS and the independent health and care sector. Their visas will be extended for a year, free of all fees and charges, including the Immigration Health Surcharge.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said: “Our overseas health and care workers make such a vital contribution to our health system and have been a key part of fight against the pandemic.
“They are protecting our loved ones and vaccinating the public so that we can save lives and return to normality.”
The Health and Care Visa - which launched last August – aims to make it easier, cheaper and quicker for the best global health professionals to work in the NHS, the social care sector, and for those organisations which provide commissioned services to the NHS.
The government expanded the list of eligible occupations able to benefit from the Health and Care Visa in January.
So far more than 20,000 people have been granted a visa through this method.
Last year the Bereavement Scheme expanded to all NHS, health and social care workers, continuing to encourage healthcare workers who are EU, other EEA or Swiss citizens – including family members - to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, to secure their rights in UK law.
Those benefiting from the visa extension will need to complete an online form to verify their identity, along with confirmation of their eligibility from their employers.