“The Home Office must clarify the legal basis for the offers of visa extensions”, says the Home Affairs committee of MPs in a coronavirus report published today. The committee points out that there is considerable uncertainty about whether the department has the legal power to offer coronavirus visa extensions in the way it has done and calls for a statutory instrument to put the matter beyond doubt. Colin gave evidence to the inquiry and suggested that what looks like a visa extension could, in legal terms, be only a policy decision not to punish overstaying when caused by the pandemic.
The report also says that the scheme has “has not been well publicised”. It calls on the Home Office to contact everyone with a visa due to expire before 31 July 2020 and let them know that they can apply for it.
The committee’s own press release about the report focuses on the related but separate scheme to give an “automatic” one-year extension to certain NHS workers. There is a closed list of NHS roles that qualify for this display of largesse, which the committee notes does not include support staff such as porters or cleaners. Social care workers are also excluded. The committee is “extremely disappointed” about this and recommends that “all NHS staff—regardless of job role, pay grade or visa route—and social care workers are offered the same fee-free one-year visa extension”.