The Home Office has announced that overseas frontline healthcare workers, including pharmacists, will have their visas extended for a year.

Visas of over 6,000 health professionals and their family dependents will be extended for free, the government said in a statement today (Nov 20).

“We recognise the huge contribution healthcare professionals from overseas are making across the UK in fighting the devastating impact of coronavirus,” home secretary Priti Patel said, adding: “We truly value the work these heroes are doing, which is why we’re renewing our free 12-month visa extension offer.”

When the coronavirus pandemic began earlier this year, the Home Office offered free extensions for health professionals whose visas were due to expire between March 31 and October 1. Today’s announcement extends that offer from October 1 to March 31.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said: “This visa extension will help to benefit healthcare professionals who have shown extraordinary dedication during this challenging period to protect all of us and our families from the threat of the virus.”

This latest extension will cover healthcare professionals working in the NHS and the independent health and care sector and their visas will be extended for a year, free of all fees and charges, including the Immigration Health Surcharge.

Giving her reaction to the announcement, Sandra Gidley, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: “We’re pleased to see the government renew its free 12-month visa extension for pharmacists and continue their exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge.

“It’s only right that the amazing contribution overseas pharmacists have made during the pandemic is recognised in this way. It’s vital that the workforce is retained and supported so that teams can continue to provide patient care during and beyond the second wave of the pandemic.

“We’d like to see a review of cases where pharmacists have missed the window since October. To avoid this situation in the future, the policy should be reviewed in good time ahead of the new deadline in March.”

Overseas pharmacists benefiting from this extension will need to complete an online form to verify their identity.

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