‘No current plans’ to exempt migrant care workers from NHS surcharge – Dominic Raab

The Government has “no current plans” to exempt foreign care workers from the NHS surcharge, the Foreign Secretary has said.

Under immigration rules, workers coming to the UK from outside the European Economic Area are required to pay the fee in order to be able to use the health service.

During the daily Downing Street briefing on Monday, Dominic Raab was asked if migrant carers working during the coronavirus pandemic would be made exempt from the charge or even see it scrapped.

Mr Raab (pictured) responded: “There’s no current plans to make the change that you describe.”

He added: “I know the Home Secretary is very keen to make sure we’ve got a sensitive immigration system for those exceptional frontline workers, whether it is in care homes or in the NHS.

“We recognise that there are a lot of people who come from abroad that do those jobs and make a huge and valuable and valued contribution to this country.”

The NHS surcharge costs £300 per year for student visas and £400 per year for all other visa and immigration applications, according to the Government’s website.

A migrant’s dependants usually need to pay the same amounts.

A Royal College of Nursing spokesman said: “Imposing this additional tax on nursing staff who come to the UK to provide care for patients is unwise and unjust.

“They are forced to pay it whether or not they use the NHS, and even though they already contribute to it through tax and national insurance.

“Furthermore, it deters nursing staff outside the EU from coming here to work, despite the fact that they are vital to our health and care services.

“Ministers should exempt nursing staff from this charge without delay.”

Last month, the Government said it was expanding a scheme to help NHS workers so that migrant midwives, social workers, pharmacists, and other frontline health staff will be granted free visa extensions for a year.

All visas for the health workers in question which are due to expire before October 1 will be automatically renewed for a year.

The Home Office said it “will apply to those working both in the NHS and independent sector and include their family members”.

Those who qualify will also be exempt from immigration health surcharges during the extension.

But the measures are unlikely to extend to carers working in small private care homes.

The Home Office said this was because such staff were more likely to be working in the country on a long-term visa, which allows them to work, rather than having a time-limited shorter-term sponsored work visa.

A department spokesman said at the time: “A majority of social care workers from outside the (European Economic Area) have come to the UK as a result of historic migration or under family circumstances, meaning visa extensions are not applicable to them.”

Last week the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said all international NHS and social care staff who have worked during the pandemic should be given indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

As part of calls for a “new deal” for overseas workers, this would include exempting them from the international health surcharge to use the NHS.

Speaking on Monday, Mr Raab said it was “absolutely right to pay tribute to the incredible work” of carers, saying that the Government was supporting the sector through an action plan and funding for recruitment.

He added: “We also do have a set of immigration controls in place and how they apply in the Covid pandemic is something we keep carefully under review.”

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