An employer's guide to
the Health and Care
16 September 2021
In order to meet the increasing demand for workers in key health and social care roles, many employers within the sector are bringing in talent from overseas to fill these essential roles.
On 4 August 2020, the UK government launched the Health and Care Worker visa, a points-based immigration route which allows qualified healthcare workers to come to the UK to do an eligible job within the NHS, an NHS supplier or in adult social care.
The Health and Care Worker visa forms part of the Skilled Worker route under the UK’s points-based immigration system. The fast-tracked, reduced fee route was designed to make it easier for trained medical professionals with good English language skills to come and work in the UK health sector.
Like the Skilled Worker route, the Health and Care Worker route requires applicants to hold a confirmed job offer from an approved sponsor. Following Brexit and the subsequent termination of free movement, employers looking to hire EU nationals who do not hold lawful immigration status in the UK must provide sponsorship for them on the same basis as non-EU nationals.
In this guide, we provide an overview of the Health and Care Worker visa and set out the key considerations for employers looking to hire migrant workers under this route.
What is a Health and Care Worker visa?
The Health and Care Worker visa grants successful applicants the right to live and work in an eligible role in the UK for up to five years. After five years, the worker may be eligible to apply to settle in the UK.
In order to apply for a Health and Care Worker visa, the applicant must meet the following eligibility criteria:
- The applicant must be a qualified doctor, nurse, health professional or adult social care professional.
- The applicant must hold a confirmed job offer from a UK employer that’s been approved by the Home Office to sponsor overseas workers.
- The job must be on the Home Office’s list of eligible occupation codes.
- The salary must meet the minimum salary requirements set out under the route.
The list of eligible occupations can be found here. If the worker will not be employed in one of the listed occupations, they will not be eligible for a Health and Care Worker visa but can apply for a Skilled Worker visa instead, providing they meet the requirements. To find out more about the eligibility requirements and application process, please see our Applicant’s Guide to the Health and Care Worker visa.
In order to employ a worker on a Health and Care Worker visa or a Skilled Worker visa, your organisation must be on the Home Office’s list of licenced sponsors. If your organisation does not already hold a sponsor licence, you must apply for one before you can hire overseas workers within your business.
The application process includes:
- Completion of an online application form
- Submission of supporting corporate documents such as: latest annual accounts; corporate bank account statement; employers’ liability insurance certificate; VAT registration certificate.
- Confirmation that the company maintains robust HR processes and would therefore be able to comply with the strict reporting and monitoring requirements placed on all sponsors.
- Appointment of people within your business to manage the sponsorship process. Chosen personnel will undergo criminality and other security checks.
- Payment of the applicable application fee.
For more information on securing a sponsor licence, watch our video guide to the application process.
Once you have gained sponsor approval, you will be able to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to the worker you wish to hire, and the employee can then submit their application for a Health and Care Worker visa.
As a licensed sponsor, it is important to fully understand your sponsorship duties in relation to your migrant workers, as the Home Office may conduct checks on your business at any time during the lifetime of your licence. Failure to comply with your sponsorship duties could result in your licence being downgraded, suspended or revoked. To find out more, please download our free employer’s guide to sponsorship duties.
The amount you must pay your sponsored workers under the Health and Care Worker visa depends on the job they are doing.
Each occupation code has its own annual ‘going rate’. In most cases, workers under this route must be paid at least the minimum salary of £20,480 or the ‘going rate’ for their occupation, whichever is higher.
However, there are different salary requirements for workers in the following occupation codes:
- 1181: health services and public health managers and directors
- 1242: residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors
- 2112: biological scientists and biochemists
- 2113: physical scientists
- 3111: laboratory technicians
- 3216: dispensing opticians
- 3217: pharmaceutical technicians
- 6146: senior care workers
Workers in these occupations must be paid at least £25,600 or £10.10 per hour, whichever is higher. If the going rate for their profession is higher than both of these, you will usually need to pay them at least the going rate.
However, you may be able to pay less than £25,600 or the ‘going rate’ if the worker meets one of the following criteria:
- Their job is in a shortage occupation
- They are under 26, studying or a recent graduate, or in professional training
- They have a STEM PhD level qualification that is relevant to the job (if they have a relevant PhD qualification in any other subject, their salary must be at least £23,040)
- They have a postdoctoral position in a scientific role
More information on salary requirements for Health and Care Workers can be found here.
Applicants to the Health and Care Worker visa benefit from reduced visa application fees for themselves and their dependants. Applicants and their dependants are also exempt from paying the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).
However, there are several costs that employers should be aware of when sponsoring workers under this route, including:
- Sponsor licence application fee – If you do not already hold a sponsor licence, the cost to apply is currently £536 for small or charitable organisations, or £1,476 for medium or large sponsors. You will also be charged the same fee when you need to renew your licence.
- CoS issuing fee – Sponsors are charged a fee of £199 for each Certificate of Sponsorship they issue to a migrant worker.
- Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) – The ISC is a fee levied on businesses employing skilled migrants. You will need to pay the ISC for each CoS you assign, unless an exemption applies. The current fees are as follows:
- Small or charitable sponsors: £364 for the first year of employment, plus £182 for each subsequent six month period.
- Medium or large sponsors: £1,000 for the first year, plus £500 for each additional six month period.
Sponsorship advice and support
Whether you are new to sponsorship or have held a licence for some time, it is important to keep on top of your legal obligations to avoid the Home Office taking adverse action against you.
Smith Stone Walters’ dedicated Sponsor Licencing team can provide advice, practical support and training for your staff on all aspects of sponsoring overseas workers. To find out how we can help, please call us on 0208 461 6660, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.