UK Immigration News: Changes to the Health and Care Worker Visa
We are not embarrassed to emphasise that this is a blog by our Immigration Solicitors to act as an alert and call to arms over the planned changes to the Health and Care Worker Visa.
The article is relevant to you if you are a sponsor licence holder, a nursing or care home planning to apply for a sponsor licence, you are in the UK on a Health and Care Worker Visa or if you are planning to move to the UK with your family on a Health and Care Worker Visa and accompanying Dependant Visas.
Our Sponsorship Licence lawyers look at 3 steps to take if you are a healthcare sector business with a sponsor licence to protect your business and help your sponsored employees.
UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers
For immigration advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.
Planned changes to the Skilled Worker Visa and Health and Care Worker Visa rules
On 4 December 2023, the Home Secretary unveiled his plan to cut UK net migration. He intends to reduce net migration to the UK by around 300,000 people per year. We are not just talking about those arriving ‘on the boats’ but those who have checked out the UK points-based immigration system and invested time in meeting the rules for the UK’s various post-Brexit work visas, such as the Skilled Worker Visa and the Health and Care Worker Visa.
This is not just a problem for the individual visa applicants and their families but also for UK business owners in the healthcare sector and ultimately for their consumers. In the healthcare industry the end customer is not just the commissioning local authority paying the bills it is also the elderly and frail patients and care home residents. To be blunt, it is your granny - or it could be.
The government plans to tighten the Health and Care visa because of the rise in Health and Care Worker Visa applicants and the increase in applications for Dependant Visas from their relatives.
The planned changes are:
- Stopping overseas care workers from bringing their dependants to the UK
- Care providers in England will now only be able to sponsor Health and Care Worker Visa applicants if they are undertaking activities regulated by the Care Quality Commission
The Health and Care Worker Visa statistics
The government says in the year ending September 2023, around 101,000 Health and Care Worker Visas were granted to care workers. However, an estimated 120,000 Dependant Visas were also granted to family members of Health and Care Worker Visa applicants. We do not know how many of those Dependant Visas were granted to children requiring nursery and school places etc.
It is difficult to make an immigration policy that balances competing needs – no one denies that. However, many businesses in the healthcare sector are adamant that they do not recruit from overseas from choice. It is a necessity if you cannot meet your recruitment needs from within the UK. Many question how government encouragement of ‘back to work’ schemes for British citizens will ‘work’, especially in the short term.
The minimum salary threshold for the Health and Care Worker Visa
The Health and Care Worker Visa forms part of the Skilled Worker Visa route.
The government has not announced an increase in the minimum salary threshold for the Health and Care Worker Visa but has said that from Spring 2024 the minimum salary threshold for the Skilled Worker Visa will increase from £26,200 to £38,700.
In addition to those coming to the UK on the Health and Care Worker Visa being exempted from the increase to the salary threshold for Skilled Worker Visas, the government said the increase in the minimum salary threshold for the Skilled Worker Visa would also not affect those workers applying for jobs on national pay scales, such as teachers.
The government's 5-point plan to reduce net migration
In addition to the changes to Dependant Visas for families of Health and Care Worker Visa applicants, and the increase in the minimum salary threshold for the Skilled Worker Visa, the government’s 3 remaining points in its immigration plan are:
- Stop the 20% going rate salary discount for shortage occupations and replace the shortage occupation list with a new Immigration Salary List. This new list will keep a general threshold discount but the Migration Advisory Committee will consider the qualifying jobs to be placed on the new list in line with the increased salary thresholds
- Increase the financial requirement for the Spouse Visa and Family Visa from £18,600 to the figure for the Skilled Worker Visa, £38,700 – doubling the threshold
- The Migration Advisory Committee will review the Graduate Visa. This visa allows international students to stay in the UK after completion of their studies and to find work without needing a sponsoring employer and without having to find a job that pays the minimum salary threshold for the Skilled Worker Visa
On top of that, we have:
- Increase in the immigration health surcharge for visa applicants (excluding Health and Care Worker Visa applicants) from around 16 January 2024
- International students on Student Visas not being able to bring dependants with them on Dependant Visas unless the student is on a postgraduate research course. The government is also stopping international students from being able to switch onto work visa routes before their studies are completed
Why is the government changing the Health and Care Worker Visa rules?
The UK government says the inclusion of carers on the Health and Care Worker Visa was meant to be a temporary measure to fill shortages arising from the pandemic. They add that ‘’significant concerns have emerged about high levels of non-compliance, worker exploitation and abuse within the adult social care sector, particularly for overseas workers employed within care occupations.’’
Sponsorship Licence lawyers are already sympathising with businesses in the healthcare sector who have played by the rules, obtained a sponsor licence and invested in sponsor licence compliance.
It is a bit galling to be thought of as having ‘’played the system’’ when all your business has done is comply with Home Office policies and follow guidelines to the letter. It is equally confusing for care workers to be told that they are welcome to come to the UK – but without their loved ones. However, the UK will accept Dependant Visa applications if the main visa applicant is going to be earning over £38,700 so a carer is priced out of enjoying a family life.
What can healthcare sector businesses do to reduce the impact of the immigration rule changes?
If healthcare sector businesses had a free reign and a magic wand, they would change the UK education system and the mindset of the British public so that working in a care home or nursing home is seen as a career of choice and not something to be done under sufferance having studied for a media degree only to find that there are insufficient jobs in TV or as influencers in Dubai.
Back in the real world, our Sponsorship Licence lawyers suggest:
- Reviewing your 2024 recruitment needs and sponsoring Health and Care Worker Visa applicants now rather than after Spring 2024
- Looking at how to retain your current staff on Health and Care Worker Visas – they may be feeling unsettled and unwanted. They may be devastated by the immigration rule changes if they had hoped to bring a partner or children to the UK in the future. You may, for example, want to offer provision of an immigration service clinic to look at their options. They may need to apply for Dependant Visas quickly to be reunited with their families or need support in applying for indefinite leave to remain once they meet the eligibility criteria
- Review your sponsor licence compliance – the government has nursing and care home businesses in the spotlight. Have you audited your files recently or do you use a professional sponsor licence management service to ensure you meet all your sponsor licence reporting and recording duties? Our Sponsorship Licence lawyers can help with audits, bespoke sponsor licence training for the healthcare sector or sponsor licence management services on a fixed monthly retainer
UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers
For immigration advice or to discuss how we can help you call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.