Health and Care Visa scheme expanded
What is the Health and Care Worker Visa and what does this mean for employers?
The government has now published a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules, together with an Explanatory Memorandum introducing the anticipated Skilled Worker and Shortage Occupation List changes to include care workers.
Care workers, care assistants and home care workers will be eligible for the Health and Care Worker Visa for a temporary period of 12 months. The changes will take effect on 15 February 2022.
In response to the continuing pressures of the pandemic on the health system, the listed care roles will be added to the Shortage Occupation List. It is anticipated that these measures will make it quicker, cheaper, and easier for social care employers to recruit workers to fill vital gaps caused by staff shortages within the UK’s social care sector.
What is the Health and Care Worker Visa?
Launched in August 2020, the Health and Care Worker Visa allows medical professionals to come to or stay in the UK to work with the NHS, an NHS supplier or in adult social care. Similar to the Skilled Worker Visa, eligible applicants can be joined by dependent partners and children and the route can lead to settlement in the UK after 5 years.
Benefits of the Health and Care Work Visa over the Skilled Worker Visa include:
- a 50% visa fee reduction — the standard application fee is £232 per person for up to 3 years and £464 per person for more than 3 years
- an exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge
- a quicker decision, following application — usually within 3 weeks.
Why are the changes required?
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a range of staff shortages within the social care sector, putting an increasing burden on the existing workforce. The changes will see all roles in SOC Code 6145 being brought into the scope of the Health and Care Worker Visa. This includes Care Assistants, Care Workers, Carers, Home Care Assistants, Home Carers and Support Workers (Nursing Home).
This move follows the recommendation from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to make care workers and home carers eligible for the Health and Care visa and add the occupation to the Shortage Occupation List. As a result, qualifying carers must be paid a minimum annual salary of £20,480.
What does this mean for employers?
Eligible care workers will have to be sponsored for the role they wish to work in. If you already have a licence to sponsor workers under the Health and Care Worker route, you can issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to allow a candidate’s visa application to progress.
If you do not have a sponsor licence but envisage a need to recruit eligible care workers under this visa route, you can prepare now by making an application for a sponsor licence in advance of the changes.
How can we help you?
We have a team of experienced immigration solicitors, who can help and advise you on obtaining the right sponsor licence, maintaining your sponsor licence at the highest rating, managing your sponsor licence, and complying with your ongoing sponsor duties and responsibilities.
For more information on the Health and Care Visa scheme, contact our immigration solicitors.