Care Assistants and Home Care Workers Join Those Eligible to Apply for the Health and Care Worker Visa
A combination of Brexit and the reduction of available EU workers together with the continuing effect of COVID-19 has led to the expansion of the health and care worker visa. Many in the media are saying ‘not before time’, especially with the current NHS staff shortages. Immigration solicitors are perhaps more understanding of the political pressures behind the timing of the decision to change work visa immigration rules but very much welcome the expansion of the health and care worker visa. Could the immigration rule changes help your UK business recruit overseas care workers?
UK Online and London Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers
The health and care worker visa
One of the things that always struck immigration lawyers as odd was the original health and care worker visa did not allow sponsoring employers to employ a ‘care worker’ from overseas. The work visa was very limited and confined to more senior health workers. That meant many UK care home businessowners could not recruit the care home staff they desperately needed under the health and care worker visa. The government has now announced that social workers, care assistants and home care workers from overseas will be included as eligible occupations to apply for the health and care worker visa. The health and care worker visa forms part of the skilled worker visa points-based immigration route.
Immigration solicitors have highlighted that the extension of the health and care worker visa scheme to cover sponsorship of care assistants and home care workers is said by the government to be a ‘temporary measure’. The government says that the increase in scope of the health and care worker visa will be for a minimum of twelve months. The message is therefore to plan ahead and ensure that your business has a Home Office issued sponsor licence in place and can recruit the overseas care workers and home care assistants it needs whilst the health and care worker visa is temporarily extended to cover these additional care worker roles.
What job roles have been added to health and care worker visa eligibility criteria?
The change of immigration rules means the following health jobs in SOC code 6145 can qualify for a health and care worker visa:
- Care assistant
- Care worker
- Home care assistant
- Home carer
- Support worker in a nursing home.
However, if a job applicant is applying for a health and care worker visa, the sponsoring employer will still need to be pay the visa holder the minimum salary threshold for a skilled worker visa. If a job is on the shortage occupation list, the minimum salary threshold is reduced from £25,600 a year to £20,800 a year.
Some UK employers are questioning the affordability of the minimum salary threshold of £20,800 a year for care workers and assistants. Sponsorship Licence lawyers say that increasing the workers hours of work is not the answer. That is because the skilled worker visa immigration rules say that the minimum salary threshold is an annual salary or a hourly rate of pay of £10.10 an hour, whichever is the higher. In addition, under current immigration rules, there are no regional variations on salary. For example, under the points-based immigration system, a North West care home cannot pay a lower salary than a care home based in central London so all sponsoring employers have to pay the same minimum salary threshold to sponsored employees.
UK employers in the care sector may therefore need to look at whether they can pass on increased salary overheads to customers, whether they are local authorities, other companies or individuals. Most UK employers are already having to look into this option because of the rising cost of recruiting UK and settled workers and the use of locums to fill staff shortages that cannot currently be filled because of the UK skills shortage.
The cost of the health and care worker visa
If your company has not previously looked into the option of applying for a sponsor licence to sponsor health professionals the increased scope of the health and care worker visa jobs may encourage you to do so. A sponsor licence can be obtained within a matter of days or weeks, depending on your company. If you are interested in applying for your first sponsor licence, call the Sponsorship Licence lawyers on 0203 959 9123 to discuss likely timescales and the information and paperwork you will need to provide.
If your business already has a sponsor licence then you may now be able to use your sponsor licence to recruit additional health care workers under the expanded work visa scheme. The advantages of using sponsorship under the health and care worker visa route rather sponsoring a skilled migrant worker under the skilled worker visa are:
- Jobs on the health and care worker visa route are on the shortage occupation list so the minimum salary threshold is reduced from £25,600 to £20,800 a year.
- The immigration fees are reduced.
- Exemption from having to pay the immigration health surcharge.
- Speedier visa processing times.
For a health and care worker visa applicant the work visa has two draws, namely it is a route to settlement in the UK and a skilled migrant workers can bring family members with them, provided that their family member qualifies for the dependant visa. Five years of lawful and continuous residence can then lead to an application for indefinite leave to remain by the main visa holder and any family in the UK on dependant visas who satisfy the residence requirement and general eligibility criteria for indefinite leave to remain. An ILR application can then either be the end of a worker’s immigration journey or the penultimate step on the route to British citizenship.
However, the first step in the recruitment of overseas health and care workers is UK business owners applying for sponsor licences so they are in a position to offer certificates of sponsorship to health and care worker visa applicants. With specialist immigration and employment legal advice what can seem like a complicated process can be taken care of with new recruits available within a matter of weeks of your sponsor licence application.
UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers
For advice on hiring overseas health care workers and sponsor licences or applying for a health and care worker visa call the immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.