NEARLY 3,000 NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics with UK work visas are to have them extended for a year free of charge, so they can "focus on fighting coronavirus," the Home Office has announced.

The department said those foreign medical staff whose visas were due to expire before October 1 will now have them automatically extended; importantly, the extension will also apply to family members. This, it stressed, showed “how valued overseas NHS staff are to the UK”.

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The Home Office explained that it was lifting the restriction on the number of hours international student nurses and doctors could work during term time while pre-registered overseas nurses would be given more time to pass their skills equivalency tests; the deadline has been extended to the end of the year.

It said that by giving overseas staff the “peace of mind” that they do not need to apply for a visa extension, this would allow those at the frontline – working around the clock in hospitals to treat the most seriously ill - to focus fully on combatting coronavirus and saving lives.

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“Doctors, nurses and paramedics from all over the world are playing a leading role in the NHS’s efforts to tackle coronavirus and save lives. We owe them a great deal of gratitude for all that they do,” declared Priti Patel.

“I don’t want them distracted by the visa process. That is why I have automatically extended their visas – free of charge – for a further year,” explained the Home Secretary.

The extension to NHS visas will be automatic, there will be no fee attached and they will be exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge.