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The NHS is a great institution, but one that has been under great pressure for years. It could not function without staff who come from many different countries. Brexit has already affected morale for many. Due to the COVID pandemic, we are asking these NHS workers to risk their lives to look after the British people while their own families are far away. This is a chance for the British Government and Public to show them how much we appreciate their invaluable contribution to our society.
Migrant workers in the NHS are doing an amazing job and we are offering them free visa extensions. But to be fair to all migrants we think the requirements for citizenship should be the same for all.
We are grateful for the amazing contribution that migrant workers within the NHS are playing at the current time, and recognise their commitment and dedication to keep vital services running and save lives.
We have made provision for doctors, nurses and paramedics working for the NHS to automatically have their visas extended by one year if it is due to expire before 1 October 2020. The extension is free and they do not have to pay the normal immigration health surcharge. Family members will also have their visa extended. We are contacting NHS employers to identify staff eligible for this extension: the staff do not need to apply. We keep all of our policies under review and are continuing to consider how we can best support the NHS and its staff.
Any migrant working in the NHS on a route which leads to settlement can apply to become a permanent resident in the UK after 5 years. Doctors and nurses, and those in other allied health professions which are on the UK Shortage Occupation List, are also exempt from having to meet the normal earnings thresholds for becoming a permanent resident in this way.
To become a British citizen you must meet a number of statutory criteria. These are set out in the British Nationality Act (1981). You must have lived here for a minimum number of years and become a permanent resident. These criteria are designed to ensure an applicant for citizenship has a strong connection to the UK and intends to remain here. Applicants must also satisfy a good character requirement and show they have sufficient knowledge of English language and of life in the UK. Citizenship cannot be granted on a discretionary basis.
We believe it is fair that all those who want to become British citizens should meet the same core requirements, and for citizenship to be awarded on a consistent basis. It is also an approach which recognises the valuable contributions all migrants make to the UK, not only those working within the NHS.
A number of countries do not allow their citizens to hold dual nationality, and can penalise people for doing so, hence granting British citizenship automatically could cause unintended issues for them. This underlines the benefit of an applicant-led approach to citizenship.
Although we are not currently looking at amending the citizenship requirements or introducing an automatic grant of it, we hope our NHS workers from across the globe will stay and make their lives in the UK they contribute so much to.