Health and Care visa expansion
offers major boost to social
care sector

The UK government has announced temporary changes to the Health and Care Worker visa scheme set to be introduced in early 2022, which aim to provide a much needed boost for social care in response to pandemic pressures on the sector.

Thousands of additional care workers from overseas could be recruited to fill vital roles in the UK’s adult social care workforce, which has suffered labour shortages throughout the pandemic and continues to struggle to attract and retain workers.

The changes will make care workers, care assistants and home care workers eligible for a Health and Care Worker visa for a 12 month period. The Health and Care visa will allow applicants and their dependants to benefit from fast-track processing, dedicated resources in processing applications and reduced visa fees. Additionally, care workers will be added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) following a recommendation from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), an independent body which advises the government on migration issues.

The move follows an investment of £465.2 million in supporting recruitment and retention of social care staff through the challenging winter period. It also reflects the UK’s commitment to becoming a ‘’high-skilled, high-wage economy” with minimum salaries that reflect the professional skills that are required to provide quality care.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The care sector is experiencing unprecedented challenges prompted by the pandemic and the changes we’ve made to the Health and Care visa will bolster the workforce and help alleviate some of the pressures currently being experienced.

This is our New Plan for Immigration in action, delivering our commitment to support the NHS and the wider health and care sector by making it easier for health professionals to live and work in the UK.”

Care workers and carers recruited to the UK will be able to bring their dependents, including partner and children, with the Health and Care visa offering a pathway to settlement should they remain employed and wish to remain in the UK.

The temporary measures will be in place for a minimum of 12 months whilst the sector deals with the additional pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, at which point they will be reviewed.

What is the Health and Care Worker visa?

The Health and Care Worker visa is a category of UK work visa which allows medical professionals to come to the UK to do an eligible job within the NHS, an NHS supplier or in adult social care.

First opened to applications on 4 August 2020, the Health and Care Worker visa was introduced to help encourage qualified healthcare professionals from overseas to come and work in the UK health sector. The visa forms part of the Skilled Worker route, and it offers eligible individuals and their dependants a fast-track, reduced-fee entry route into the UK.

In order to qualify for a Health and Care Worker visa, the applicant must hold a confirmed job offer in an eligible role from a UK employer that’s been approved by the Home Office to sponsor overseas workers.

Currently, the cost to apply for a Health and Care Worker visa is £232 per person for up to three years, or £464 per person for more than three years. Applicants under this category and their dependants are not required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). Applicants will usually receive a decision from the Home Office within three weeks.

What is the Shortage Occupation List?

The Shortage Occupation List (SOL) shows job roles where UK employers face a shortage of suitable labour in the resident market, and where it is sensible to fill those shortages with migrant workers. Occupations on the list are then subject to more favourable immigration arrangements, enabling employers to access a wider pool of suitably skilled workers more quickly.

Inclusion on the Shortage Occupation List will stipulate an annual salary minimum of £20,480 for carers to qualify for the Health and Care visa.

How will the changes impact employers?

The planned changes will make it quicker, cheaper and easier for social care employers to recruit eligible workers to fill vital gaps in their workforce.

In order to employ a worker on a Health and Care Worker visa, your organisation must be on the Home Office’s list of licenced sponsors. Care providers who do not already hold sponsor approval can prepare to take advantage of the offer by applying for a sponsor licence ahead of implementation.

Providers who are new to visa sponsorship will be supported through the process through a series of engagement activities in January and February, to introduce them to the system and find out how to act as a visa sponsor.

Sponsoring health and care workers?

If your organisation is starting a recruitment drive in the health and social care sector and you require support with sponsorship, Smith Stone Walters can help.

Our dedicated sponsor licensing team can assist your business with all aspects of sponsoring overseas workers and maintaining compliance. Our immigration experts are on hand to offer practical support and advice throughout the entire process, from the initial sponsor licence application stage to supporting your employees with their visa applications and complying with your ongoing sponsorship duties.

To find out how we can help, contact us today.

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