UK lures Nigerian doctors with new visa law

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The United Kingdom on Wednesday announced a new ‘Health and Care Visa’ policy that could attract the doctors, nurses and health workers in Nigeria and rest the world.

The UK halted visa issuance since the outbreak of COVID-19 but has now reopened the migration window for care professionals, social workers and their families, to bolster its National Health Service (NHS).

The new visa policy aims to make it cheaper, quicker and easier for healthcare professionals to come go to UK, beginning from August.

Findings show that UK is one of the leading destinations for migrating Nigerian health workers. Estimates have it that there are over 4000 Nigerian doctors in UK, spread across 83 sub-specialties.

The UK Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care had announced that the new Health and Care Visa would be launched this summer, creating a new fast-track visa route for eligible health and care professionals and delivering on a key manifesto commitment.

According to details of the statement, it has been designed to make it easier and quicker for the best global health professionals to work in the NHS, for NHS commissioned service providers, and in eligible occupations in the social care sector.

It further said that the legislation needed to open this new route would be laid in Parliament and health professionals would be able to apply from August.

The UK government statement said that the new Health and Care Visa would come with a reduced visa application fee compared to that paid by other skilled workers, including exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge.

Health and care professionals applying on this route can also expect a decision on whether they can work in the UK within just three weeks, following biometric enrollment.

“Those working in health and social care, who do not qualify for the Health and Care Visa, will still be able to claim a reimbursement from the Immigration Health Surcharge, if they have paid this on or after March 31,” the statement added.

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “We are indebted to overseas health and care professionals for their tremendous contributions, not just in saving thousands of lives throughout this crisis, but for the vital role they play year-round”.

She added that the Health and care professionals from all over the world have played a vital role in hospitals and care homes across the country fighting coronavirus.

“The introduction of the Health and Care Visa follows a number of unprecedented measures to show the UK’s gratitude to health workers from overseas,” she said.

Medical experts, in separate conversations with The Guardian, warned that despite the turning back of some 58 UK-bound doctors at the airport by the NIS, more of their colleagues and other health workers were set to leave the country.

They blamed the situation on poor working conditions and environment, lack of work opportunities, rising living cost, high taxes and deductions from salary, low work satisfaction, poor salaries and emoluments.

They said for some others, frustrations and despair about the devastation of family life, crime, insecurity, personal health and concerns about the education of children are enough reasons to pull up stakes and leave the shores.

Recently, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Lagos, intercepted 58 Nigerian doctors, who attempted travelling to UK without visa.

The 58 medical doctors were refused departure in line with Section 31 subsection 2a and b, on powers conferred on the Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service by the Immigration Act 2015, to prohibit departure of any person under the conditions stated in the Act.

The doctors were said to be travelling for a training programme.