Foreign nurses
prioritised by the
UK visa system

The government has decided to continue prioritising nursing occupations within the UK’s skilled immigration system.

Following the release of a report by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) concerning the inclusion of nursing on the government’s shortage occupations list (the SOL), the government has chosen not to remove nurses from the SOL for the time being.

The government-commissioned report criticised the NHS for failing to maintain a sufficient supply of nurses for its services, and recommended that nursing roles be kept on the SOL in order to ease the current staffing crisis within the UK’s health service.

The government has taken the MAC’s advice on board and will, for now, continue to prioritise UK visa applications from non-EEA nationals wishing to come to the UK to take up positions as qualified nurses.

A further MAC recommendation which has been accepted by the government is the need for a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) to be conducted before a UK employer can apply to employ a non-EEA national for a nursing role.

The RLMT ensures that a UK resident cannot be found to fill the professional nursing role in question, and it is hoped that forcing employers to conduct this test will soothe concerns that nurses from outside of Europe are hired in order to undercut wage expectations.

The MAC has warned, however, that prioritising nurses within the UK’s skilled immigration system could lead to other industries being deprived of the talent they need.

Only 20,800 restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) for Tier 2 working visas are available to employers each year and the number of non-EEA hires which can be made on an annual basis is consequently limited. It has therefore been suggested that a maximum of 5,000 restricted CoS are issued for nursing roles each year, in order to limit the number of restricted CoS which can be occupied by this one industry.

It has not yet been announced whether or not this last measure will be implemented. For now, however, individuals with a job offer to work in the UK as a qualified nurse will be given priority within the Tier 2 skilled visa system.

Read the MAC’s report here.

Click here for more UK immigration news from Smith Stone Walters, the UK immigration specialist.

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