A government scheme exempting overseas workers from visa fees for one year should be extended to all care staff and NHS employees, says UNISON today.
The union is backing an amendment brought by MP Yvette Cooper to the Immigration Bill that would ensure many more staff – such as social care workers, hospital cleaners, healthcare assistants and porters – would not have to pay up to £3,000 to remain working on the Covid-19 frontline.
UNISON is urging people across the East of England to write to their MP to get the Bill changed.
It coincides with the publication today of a Home Affairs Select Committee report, which also calls for a visa scheme extension.
Only around 3,000 NHS workers – whose visas were due to expire before 1 October – currently qualify for the free extension announced in April by the Home Office.
UNISON says many more are having to face the costly and stressful process of applying because they are not eligible under the scheme.
The union is also calling on the government to grant key workers who have been on the Covid-19 frontline indefinite leave to remain.
UNISON Eastern acting regional secretary Tim Roberts said: “It’s deeply unjust that thousands of care workers and NHS staff don’t qualify for the free visa extension scheme despite rightly being lauded as heroes in recent months.
“It’s a costly process reapplying and one that’s stressful at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic.
“Many migrant workers are in a precarious position with their visas up for renewal during the crisis. They’re on the frontline looking after us – we must look after them too.”
A one-year visa extension costs around £3,000 which includes the basic fee, NHS surcharge and biometric costs.