How much does it cost to
sponsor a care worker
from overseas?

Last week, Smith Stone Walters published an article outlining the sponsor licence application process for care sector employers wishing to sponsor overseas care workers under the Health and Care Worker route.

Since the Home Office introduced temporary measures in February 2022 to tackle staff shortages in the care sector by adding care workers and home carers to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) and making these roles newly eligible for sponsorship, many employers have begun recruiting care workers from overseas for the first time since Brexit.

Smith Stone Walters has helped a range of employers in the care sector to secure a sponsor licence and begin sponsoring their first skilled workers. One of the most common concerns among those businesses that are new to the sponsorship process is how much it costs to bring in care workers from outside the UK.

The Health and Care Worker route is designed to offer a reduced-fee alternative to the Skilled Worker route and therefore applicants can benefit from lower visa application fees and exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).

However, there are various other Home Office fees that must be paid before a business can sponsor a care worker without an existing right to work in the UK. Some of these fees must be paid by the sponsoring employer, and others are usually covered by the migrant worker applying for the visa. Below, we set out the key costs employers will need to budget for when sponsoring migrant workers on a Health and Care Worker visa.

Sponsor licence fee

Before your business can begin recruiting migrant workers, you must gain approval from the Home Office to do so by applying for a sponsor licence. The fee you will need to pay when you apply depends on the size and nature of your business. The application fee is currently:

  • £536 for small businesses and charities
  • £1,476 for medium and large organisations.

For the purpose of sponsorship fees, you are usually considered a small company if at least 2 of the following apply:

  • your annual turnover is £10.2 million or less
  • your total assets are worth £5.1 million or less
  • you have 50 employees or fewer.

The fee is for the Home Office to consider your licence application and will not be refunded if your application is refused or if you withdraw it after consideration has begun. You will also need to pay the same fee each time you apply to renew an existing sponsor licence.

Certificate of Sponsorship fee

Sponsors will also need to pay a fee each time they issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to a care worker. Currently, it costs £199 to assign a CoS to a Health and Care Worker.

Immigration Skills Charge

Sponsors are required to pay the Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) for each CoS they assign, unless an exemption applies. The full fee is payable up front, and the amount charged will depend on the size of the organisation and the length of employment stated on the CoS. 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.

In some instances, employers may be due a full or partial refund of the ISC. For example, if a CoS is assigned to a worker who does not subsequently take up the post, the employer will be entitled to a full refund of the ISC paid.

A partial refund may be owed in cases where the employee takes up the role but sponsorship is terminated earlier than stated on the CoS due to the worker leaving employment. In this case, you must report the worker leaving your employment in order to receive a partial refund.

If the worker leaves employment early, you will not be refunded the ISC in relation to the first year of sponsorship. The CoS fee included with the ISC payment is also non-refundable.

Visa application fee

Unlike the costs listed above which must be covered by the employer, it is usually down to the visa applicant to pay the visa application fee, although some employers choose to cover this cost for their international hires.

It costs £247 to apply for a Health and Care Worker visa where a CoS has been issued for three years or less, or £479 where a CoS has been issued for over three years. The same fee must also be paid for any accompanying dependants.

Under the Health and Care Worker route, applicants and their dependants are exempt from paying the Immigration Health Surcharge.

TB test

Under the UK Immigration Rules, individuals applying for a visa are required to have a Tuberculosis (TB) test if they are coming to the UK for more than six months and are resident in one of the listed countries identified by the Home Office.

The TB test fee is determined by the clinic and therefore costs will vary from country to country, but is usually around £100 – £150. The TB test fee must be paid to the clinic directly.

English language test

When applying for a Health and Care Worker visa, applicants will need to prove their knowledge of the English language if they have not already done this as part of a previous successful visa application.

To satisfy this requirement, the applicant may need to pass a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider. There is an additional cost to take a test which varies depending on the provider, but an approximate cost is around £180 – £200.

Applicants will not need to take a test if they hold certain educational qualifications taught in English, or if they are a national of a majority English speaking country as identified by the Home Office. Many care homes choose to avoid the extra cost and time associated with English language testing by targeting their overseas recruitment drive to citizens of majority English speaking countries.

Optional premium services

Under standard processing times, those applying for a Health and Care Worker visa can expect to receive a decision on their application within 3 weeks. However, employers wishing to onboard a new care worker on a tighter timescale may wish to utilise the Home Office’s Priority or Super Priority services which are available at an extra cost.

  • Applicants using the Priority service should receive a decision within 5 working days. It costs £500 for applications inside the UK.
  • Applicants using the Super Priority service should receive a decision by the end of the next working day. It costs £800 for applications inside the UK.

It should be noted that not all Visa Application Centres (VACs) offer these services and applicants should check with their chosen centre directly for more information on availability.

Hiring care workers from overseas?

If your business intends to recruit care workers from outside the UK using the Health and Care Worker route, Smith Stone Walters can help.

Our dedicated team of immigration advisers can provide expert support throughout the entire process, from initial sponsor licence application to submitting individual visa applications on behalf of your international recruits. To find out how we can help, please contact us today.

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