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The NHS Is Struggling To Find Staff…And It Is Not Alone

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By Teni Shahiean, of OTS Solicitors

The NHS is facing a staffing crisis. Following the EU referendum in 2016, fewer EEA nationals are coming to the UK to fill critical positions in Britain’s hospitals and GP surgeries.

NHS HR directors, with the support of London’s best Immigration solicitors, are calling on the Home Office to exempt skilled workers from Tier 2 visa requirements as Immigration quotas are restricting their ability to recruit the staff they desperately need.

The Home Office each year grants 20,700 Tier 2 visas for skilled migrants from outside the EEA, with a monthly limit of about 1,700. About a third go to NHS employees. According to a report in the Financial Times, for the first time, the number of Tier 2 applicants breached the monthly limit for two consecutive months in December and January. The best Immigration lawyers and other experts say that many of the hundreds of rejected applicants are expected to reapply for the roughly 2,600 spaces available in February and March, pushing the excess numbers into the new financial year in April.

The NHS suffers under the Points-Based-System, as it categorises Tier 2 applicants partly on their expectant salary. Many would-be immigrant doctors would earn too little to qualify. The University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust told the FT it has had 18 applicants rejected because of the issue.

Tier 2 eligibility criteria

For an NHS Trust to successfully recruit health professionals from outside the EEA, the Trust must have a Tier 2 or 5 Sponsor Licence. In addition, the Sponsor Licence must have an A-rating for the NHS Trust to issue new Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS).

The duties and responsibilities a Sponsor Licence holder must comply with are onerous, and the Home Office can and do make unannounced visits to the premises of Sponsor Licence holders to ensure they are meeting their compliance obligations. One way to reduce the burden of Sponsor Licence compliance is to work with an Immigration lawyer who can assist you with administering the Sponsors Management System (SMS) and provide you with the best legal advice.

Under a Tier 2 (General) Visa, the applicant must be able to show:

  • they have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from an employer with a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence
  • an ‘appropriate salary’ for the job
  • personal savings of £945 so they can support themselves upon arrival
  • proof they can travel and details of their travel history over the last five years
  • their tuberculosis test results (if required)

If the position you are recruiting for is not on the Shortage Occupation List, you need to perform a Resident Labour Market Test to ensure there are no settled UK workers who could fill the vacancy. This must be run correctly, or your organisation could risk having its Sponsor Licence downgraded, suspended, or revoked.

An appropriate salary is the minimum salary required for the type of visa you are applying for or the appropriate rate for your job type, whichever is higher. The minimum salary for most Tier 2 (General) Visas is £30,000. However, some healthcare positions are exempt from the ‘appropriate salary’ requirement, including medical radiographers, nurses and paramedics.

Other industries facing staffing recruitment challenges thanks to Brexit

Last week, Adam Marshall, the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, wrote an op-ed in the Guardian, titled: Businesses are floundering while Whitehall dithers on Immigration. Mr Marshallstated the lack of candidates for some jobs was “biting hard”, and he warned ministers against bringing forward a “draconian and damaging” visa or work permit system.

He comments that British Chambers of Commerce surveys show nearly three-quarters of firms trying to recruit are experiencing difficulties and that, despite often hysterical media article screeching the opposite, only a tiny portion of businesses deliberately seek non-EEA staff in order to save costs. Most have to look abroad because they simply cannot find the talent they need, especially given that Britain has high Employment at present. And just because there are unemployed people looking for work, does not mean they are qualified or capable of doing the job being advertising. He went on to comment:

“The simple fact is that many businesses can’t afford to wait much longer for a clear UK Immigration policy to emerge. This makes it all the more troubling that the planned Immigration white paper, meant to cover the short to medium term, is now delayed.

“A failure to act swiftly would hamstring UK firms’ competitiveness, and even send some to the wall. It’s not just about “the best and the brightest” coming to work in the City, our universities and the creative industries. If ministers wish to avoid the sight of unfinished urban buildings, fruit rotting in Herefordshire fields, and care homes and hotels from Bournemouth to Inverness shutting their doors, as well as manufacturers investing in their overseas operations instead of here at home, the time to act is now.”

In summary

The government’s continuous delay in outlining how its Immigration policy will look following the country’s exit from the EU is frustrating businesses and London’s best Immigration solicitors.

There are many questions that remain unanswered, such as: will organisations require a Sponsor Licence to recruit talent from the EEA? Will EEA nationals be able to bring their families with them? Will the same ‘appropriate salary’ rates apply across the board?

Until these questions, and many more are answered, it will not only be the NHS which will suffer from being unable to fulfil its vacancies and provide adequate service, all businesses will struggle, putting immense pressure on the economy as a whole.

OTS Solicitors is one of the most respected Immigration law firms in London and is a Legal 500 leading firm. By making an appointment with one of our Immigration solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today.

For advice on Brexit Sponsor Licences and Tier 2 Visa applications, please contact us on 0203 959 9123 to speak to one of our Immigration consultants.

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