An MP has written to the government calling for all non-British nurses and other workers on the frontline of coronavirus to be granted citizenship without exams or fees.
In a letter to the home secretary, Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams urged the government to consider granting immediate British citizenship to all key workers who had made an application, to “recognise the enormous contribution” they are making in the pandemic.
“Many key workers who do not hold British citizenship are still living in perpetual uncertainty”
He asked the UK government to “give immediate, free citizenship to all key workers who have applied, thereby granting them the honour and recognition they deserve”.
The call comes after a number of non-UK citizen NHS workers in Bangor contacted the political party to say they felt this should be offered.
Mr Williams highlighted in the letter that many health and care workers were “facing unprecedented difficulties, from the lack of personal protective equipment to the drastic surge in patient numbers”.
“Sadly, the fast spread of the virus has tragically already claimed the lives of many healthcare workers,” he added.
“Despite their valiant efforts, many key workers who do not hold British citizenship, from doctors to hospital cleaners and from nursing home aides to paramedics, are still living in perpetual uncertainty about whether they can stay in the UK permanently.
“To add insult to injury, they also face exorbitant application fees.”
“We will continue to work to see if we can assist other frontline workers during this crisis”
He noted that the government previously granted citizenship rights to Gurkhas who had served in the British Army for their contribution to defending the UK.
“This pandemic has shown that immigrants are a vital part of our society and our economy,” he added.
“It is therefore crucial that the UK government recognises the scale of sacrifice and commitment that key workers are making.”
In response to Mr Williams’ letter, a government spokesperson said it recognised the “huge contribution” being made by all frontline workers and had already extended visas due expire before 1 October 2020.
As part of the announcement made at the end of March, eligible overseas health professionals will be given an automatic one-year extension to their visas.
The extension will be free and exempt from the £400 a year Immigration Health Surcharge payment that allows immigrants to use NHS services in the same way as a UK citizen.
The government spokesperson added: “We are working with NHS trusts across the UK to identify those who will benefit and we will continue to work to see if we can assist other frontline workers during this crisis.”