This paper presents a ‘state of the art’ comprehensive review and discussion of global and national policy responses to address the risks faced by migrant health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic (2020-2022). It shows that remarkably few of the policy responses directed at the health workforce have addressed the specific circumstances, risks and needs of migrant members of this workforce, and not all such workers benefited from the measures. Beneficial measures, notably recognition of COVID-19 as an occupational safety and health issue and as an ILO fundamental right, are accompanied by measures infringing health workers’ earlier acquired rights. Accelerated international recruitment of health workers has been facilitated by rapidly-adjusted domestic regulations on qualifications and skills recognition, licenses and visas, exacerbating extant staffing shortages in countries of origin and collective rights to health of populations in those countries. Global policy responses have been largely declaratory, focussed on mobility, skills and training capacities, ethical recruitment and government-to-government programmes to manage health worker migration. Long-term policy responses in relation to rights-based approaches to health worker migration and building sustainable health care systems have been very limited. Further research is required to assess the efficacy of the measures adopted and whether those introduced on a temporary basis have been revoked, retained and/or extended.