COVID-19: UK begins issuance of flexible visa to doctors, others

The United Kingdom has announced a special type of visa for foreign healthcare professionals to work in Britain.

The Health and Care Visa, according to UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, will create “a new fast-track visa route for eligible healthcare professionals” to travel to the UK and assist in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the World Health Organisation COVID-19 dashboard, the UK is one of the countries most hit by the pandemic recording about 300,000 confirmed infections including over 45,000 associated fatalities.

The PUNCH had reported that the Nigeria Immigration Service last week disallowed about 60 doctors from travelling to the UK because they had no visa.

But the British government said applicants will be able to start applying for the new visa effective August, adding that this category of health workers will be “permanently exempted from the Immigration Health Surcharge”.

The National Health Service noted that the new visa demonstrates the government’s commitment to delivering an inclusive healthcare sector.

It noted in a statement, “It is designed to make it easier and quicker for the best global health professionals to work in the NHS, for NHS commissioned service providers, and in eligible occupations in the social care sector.

“The new Health and Care Visa will come with a reduced visa application fee compared to that paid by other skilled workers.

“Health and care professionals applying on this route can also expect a decision on whether they can work in the UK within just three weeks, following biometric enrolment. Those working in health and social care who do not qualify for the Health and Care Visa will still be able to claim a reimbursement from the Immigration Health Surcharge if they have paid this on or after 31 March.”

Patel was quoted in the statement as saying, “This new visa is part of our new immigration system making it quicker, cheaper and easier for the best and brightest health and care professionals from around the globe to work in our brilliant NHS.

“Health and care professionals from all over the world have played a vital role in hospitals and care homes across the country fighting coronavirus. The introduction of the Health and Care Visa follows a number of unprecedented measures to show the UK’s gratitude to health workers from overseas.”

Patel also added that foreign healthcare workers already in the UK but whose visas are about to expire will be able to get an extension.

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