The Government must grant indefinite leave to remain to all international health and care workers who have worked in the UK during the pandemic, says the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
On Windrush Day, a national holiday to honour the British Caribbean community, the RCN wants the vital importance and contribution of international health and care staff to be recognised.
The Home Office must grant indefinite leave to remain to these members of the workforce, and their dependents and immediate family, at once, without the need to pay fees or qualify through tests.
The College says this would be a fitting way for the Government to mark Windrush Day, in honour of the hard-working Caribbean nurses who made a vital contribution to post-war British society.
Over one in 10 of the total registered nursing workforce in the UK come from overseas, according to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). As of September 2019, 77,065 registered nurses came from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).
However, international nursing staff are forced to wait five years before they can apply for indefinite leave to remain for themselves, their family members and dependants.
They also have to take the Life in the UK Test – a 45-minute test of 24 questions about British traditions and customs. Some also need to take an additional English Language qualification.
The Home Office announced that the families of any health or social care workers who die as a result of COVID-19 will receive “immediate indefinite leave to remain, free of charge”, but the RCN wants the Home Secretary to go further.
Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary, said:
“The best way to honour the legacy of Windrush Day is to ensure no nurse, or health and care worker, who trained overseas, and helped in this pandemic, feels alien in this country.“Granting automatic, indefinite leave to remain to international health and care workers who helped tackle this virus should be instinctive. The services and support that they provide, though brought to the fore through this pandemic, have always been essential. They are, and always will be, key workers.” More information on the Home Office Coronavirus (COVID-19): bereavement scheme for family members of NHS and health and social care workers is available here.