Home Office smooths path for foreign care workers with visa plan
Social care staff are to be eligible for the Health and Care Worker visa for a minimum of 12 months from early next year under plans by the Home Office to ease pandemic pressures.
The visa change affects all roles in SOC Code 6145, which include care assistants, care workers, carers, home care assistants, home carers and nursing home support workers.
The move follows the recommendation from the Migration Advisory Committee to make care workers and home carers eligible for the visa and add the occupation to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL).
Inclusion on the SOL will stipulate an annual salary minimum of £20,480 for carers - equivalent to £10.10 per hour for a full-time worker - to qualify for the Health and Care Worker visa.
“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 helping alleviate some of the pressures currently being experienced,” said Home Secretary Priti Patel MP.
“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,” she added.
The Health and Care Worker visa was launched in August 2020 and allows medical professionals to come to or stay in the UK to work with the NHS, an NHS supplier or in adult social care.
The visa offers 50 per cent visa fee reduction, an exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge and a speedier decision following application.
Care providers who do not already hold a sponsor licence in the Skilled Worker route can prepare to take advantage of the offer by registering for a sponsorship license 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.
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.
National Care Forum chief executive Vic Rayner OBE backed the Home Office plans.
“This is welcome news at an incredibly challenging moment for social care. The workforce is under more pressure than ever before, and this change will mean that hard pressed employers struggling to recruit from the UK labour market will have a glimmer of hope for the New Year," she said.
"It will be imperative that all organisations – large and small - needing these additional valued workers, will be able to utilise the immigration system at speed. At present it is complex, and organisations currently using it for wider roles recognise the financial and bureaucratic burdens inherent in the system.”
Rayner continued: “We look forward to working with the government to ensure that this important change brings meaningful long term relief to the care sector. It cannot come soon enough.”