Facing severe staff shortage, the Boris Johnson government is rolling out a fast-track visa for doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals from India and other non-EU countries from August, levying a reduced visa application fee compared to other skilled workers.
Such professionals will also be exempted from the Immigration Health Surcharge that is payable at the time of making the visa application. The visa, called the Health and Care Visa, will also be processed within three weeks, officials said.
The visa was announced earlier, but the necessary parliamentary papers were moved on Tuesday, enabling its launch from August. A new, wider points-based immigration system is to come into effect from January 1.
Under the new arrangement developed by home secretary Priti Patel and health secretary Matt Hancock, international medical and care professionals who are already in the country will have their Immigration Health Surcharge reimbursed if paid on or after March 31.
The contribution of India and other international medical staff has been highlighted during the coronavirus pandemic. Many contracted the infection while treating patients and passed away, adding to studies that suggest the virus’ disproportionately high impact on non-white people.
Patel said: “We are indebted to overseas health and care professionals for their tremendous contributions, not just in saving thousands of lives throughout this crisis, but for the vital role they play year-round”.
“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”.
India-trained doctors comprise the second-largest group in the NHS, after UK-trained doctors. Indian nurses also comprise a large group in hospitals across the UK.
Hancock added: “Our health and care system has always had a proud tradition of welcoming overseas staff to work, train and live in the UK, and I’m proud that the NHS is a destination of choice for talented people from around the world”.
“The unwavering commitment, skill and compassion staff have shown during the fight against this deadly virus is nothing short of phenomenal, and the reimbursement of the immigration health surcharge recognises the enormous contribution of those who have come to the UK to work in health and social care”.
“I’m incredibly proud of our health and care workforce and look forward to welcoming new professionals from across the globe to continue the fantastic work to ensure our health system remains the best in the world”.