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Calls for extension of free visa renewal

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Visas should be renewed automatically Visas should be renewed automatically to tackle a second wave of COVID-19

The RCN has joined forces with other health bodies to demand extension of free visa renewal scheme for international work.

The RCN, the British Medical Association and Unison are demanding that international staff have their visas automatically renewed free of charge to ensure they are able to stay in the UK to help tackle the second wave of COVID-19.

‘Overseas nursing staff make a vital contribution to the nursing workforce and they have been under significant pressure caring for patients during the pandemic. It is unfair that at the same time they should be worrying about arranging an extension to their visa,’ said Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN.

‘If the Government wants to show support and recognition of those who have dedicated themselves to caring for UK patients, they should act now to grant automatic extension to visas throughout the pandemic. This will allow nursing staff to get on with their primary role of caring for their patients without imposing unnecessary uncertainty and stress.’

Between the end of March and 1 October, health and care staff whose visas were expiring had theirs automatically renewed for 12 months free of charge. The healthcare unions have written to the Home Secretary asking that she intervenes and renews the extension as a matter of urgency.

‘Our international health and care colleagues have worked tirelessly and selflessly in recent months, providing care and support as we all faced unprecedented challenges. This often came at the expense of their own health and wellbeing, and as we know, in too many cases, we have seen staff who came from overseas to look after people in this country tragically lose their own lives to this dreadful virus,’ said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair.

‘These efforts must absolutely not go ignored. The least we owe these committed staff is some certainty over their future in this country, while also ensuring talented staff are able to continue contributing their much-needed skills to the health and care sector through what look to be some intensely difficult months ahead.’

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