On 24 December 2021, the Department of Health and Social Care announced that certain categories of care workers would be added to the Shortage Occupation List, and therefore become eligible to apply for a 12-month health and care worker visa as of early 2022.
The announcement comes after the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), an independent public body which advises the government on migration issues, highlighted in its annual report that it was becoming more difficult for care providers to recruit and retain workers. One of the reasons for this is that, after, Brexit care workers can no longer be recruited as before from the European Economic Area. In that same report, the MAC recommended that the UK government make care workers and home carers immediately eligible for the health and care worker visa, as well as adding these occupations to the Shortage Occupation List, a list of occupations where the UK government believes employers are facing a shortage of labour.
A health and care worker visa allows medical professionals to come and work in the UK in a job with the NHS, an NHS supplier or in adult social care. At the moment, only senior care workers can apply for a health and care worker visa. The government’s announcement, however, means that care assistants, care workers, carers, home care assistants, home carers and support workers (nursing home) will soon become eligible to apply for this visa. Adding these occupations to the Shortage Occupation List means that employers can sponsor care workers at a minimum salary of £20,480 per year, which is lower than the minimum salary threshold normally needing to be met for a health and care worker visa.
The government has stated that this is a temporary measure in place for 12 months, while the care sector copies with the ongoing pandemic, after which it will be reviewed. While the government states that a health and care visa will offer care workers a route to indefinite leave to remain if they remain employed and wish to remain in the UK, future Home Office guidance would have to clarify how this would be possible if care workers were to be later removed from the Shortage Occupation List and no longer eligible to apply under the health and care visa route. The government has not yet updated its rules and guidance on the health and care visa route to account for care workers, although they are likely to remain similar to the ones currently in place.
If you require immigration advice in relation to the issues above, we would be happy to help. Care providers who are looking to recruit care workers from overseas would need to hold a Home Office licence allowing them to sponsor under the health and care visa route, and we would be happy to advise about these issues too. Please do not hesitate to contact us on 020 7401 6887 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.