Spotlight On: The new
Health and Care Visa
16 July 2020
On 13 July, the Home Secretary unveiled further details on the UK’s new points-based immigration system which will come into effect on 1 January 2021.
Following the announcement, updated Home Office policy guidance has now been published outlining the much-anticipated new Health and Care Visa route, which will be open to applicants from 4 August 2020.
Home Secretary Priti Patel and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock claim they have developed this new visa to demonstrate the government’s ‘commitment to deliver for the NHS and wider health and care sector’.
However, the scheme has been met with widespread criticism due to the strict eligibility requirements blocking certain occupations such as social care workers from accessing this route.
The Health and Care Visa at a glance
The Health and Care Visa will be a fast-tracked, reduced-fee entry route into the UK for eligible individuals and their dependents, and will form part of the new Skilled Worker route. The new visa aims to provide an incentive for qualified healthcare professionals with good working English to come to the UK to work.
Individuals using this route must have a confirmed job offer in one of the defined professions from the NHS, the social care sector, or an employer that provides commissioned services to the NHS. Applications can be made using the normal Tier 2 (General) application form, where applicants will be able to check a box confirming they are applying for a Health and Care Visa. This will then ensure the reduced fee is applied.
Applicants should only tick this box if their employer has confirmed that they are eligible on the Certificate of Sponsorship, and applications may be rejected if the individual does not appear to meet the required conditions.
The guidance states that it is an employer’s responsibility to inform employees when they are eligible to apply for the Health and Care Visa. When assigning the Certificate of Sponsorship, employers will also be required to include a brief explanation to demonstrate how the employee meets the requirements of the Health and Care Visa.
Who can apply for a Health and Care Visa?
The full list of professions, defined by Standard Occupational Classification codes, which would currently qualify for a Health and Care Visa are as follows:
- 2112 Biological scientists and biochemists
- 2113 Physical Scientists
- 2211 Medical Practitioners
- 2212 Psychologists
- 2213 Pharmacists
- 2214 Ophthalmic Opticians
- 2215 Dental practitioners
- 2217 Medical Radiographers
- 2218 Podiatrists
- 2219 Health Professionals not elsewhere classified
- 2221 Physiotherapists
- 2222 Occupational Therapists
- 2223 Speech and Language Therapists
- 2229 Therapy professionals not elsewhere classified
- 2231 Nurses
- 2232 Midwives
- 2442 Social Workers
- 3213 Paramedics
This list is exhaustive, although it will be updated in line with the launch of the new Skilled Worker route and the expanded skills threshold later this year.
As well having a confirmed job offer for a role in one of the above occupations, applicants must also meet the relevant skill and salary threshold requirements of the Skilled Worker route, and all relevant criteria for a Tier 2 (General) migrant.
What are the fees?
Reduced application fees have been promised as part of this route, however the exact fee is yet to be confirmed.
As well as the reduced fee, applicants and their dependents will also be exempt from paying the Immigration Health Surcharge. Frontline workers in the health and social care sector who are not eligible to apply for the new Health and Care Visa will be required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, but will benefit from a reimbursement scheme.
We expect further details on fees and exemptions for health and social care workers to be released in due course.
How long are the processing times for a Health and Care Visa?
Decisions on applications to the Health and Care Visa route will be fast-tracked and UKVI will prioritise applications made under this category.
The Home Office aims to process most applications within three weeks from the point the applicant provides their biometric information. This is in comparison to the current timeframe for visa processing of between eight and twenty weeks.
Be Aware, Be Prepared.
With the clock ticking down to January 2021, employers and applicants should be aware of how the UK’s new points-based immigration system will impact their immigration and global mobility activities.
Smith Stone Walters is on hand to provide businesses and individuals with up to date, professional advice on how to prepare for the upcoming changes to the UK’s immigration system.