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28th February 2022

Immigration Rules Relaxed for Health and Care Workers

New rules have kicked in which means it will be quicker, cheaper and easier for social care employers to recruit eligible workers to fill vital gaps. Angela Barnes, Senior Associate Solicitor, at Napthens.

It’s a well-known fact that most care sector employers are currently struggling to recruit.

A range of factors have impacted on the ability to recruit, including Brexit, the pandemic and, most recently, the introduction of mandatory vaccinations. Other issues with the level of pay, often unsociable hours and the demanding nature of the role have led some individuals to leave their jobs and, indeed, the sector, to find less stressful jobs in other industries.

In response to the staff shortages in the health and social care sector, as of 15 February 2022, the Government has temporarily added care workers to the Home Office’s Shortage Occupational List (“SOL”) for 12 months. This means that non-UK nationals can now apply for a health and care worker visa to work within the UK as a care worker to fill those roles where there are staff shortage. This means it will be quicker, cheaper and easier for social care employers to recruit eligible workers to fill vital gaps.

What should employers do?

If you are experiencing staff shortages, you may want to take advantage of this scheme to recruit migrants into care worker roles (including social care workers, care assistants and home care worker roles). The benefits of the health and care work visa include:

  • A 50% visa fee reduction — the standard application fee is £232 per person for up to 3 years and £464 per person for more than 3 years
  • An exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge
  • A quicker decision, following application — usually within 3 weeks

However, in order to make use of this scheme, the employer will need a sponsor licence, if they do not already have one.

Those employers who have already obtained a sponsor licence will be able to take advantage of this scheme right away and sponsor workers who apply for a health and care worker visa by issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship to allow a candidate’s application to progress. However, those who do not currently have a sponsor licence should ensure that they apply for a sponsor licence as soon as possible, as it can take several weeks for a sponsor licence application to be processed. Once a sponsor licence is obtained, it is valid for four years and can then be renewed.

Those eligible to work in the UK under the health and care worker visa, will be permitted to stay in the UK for up to five years and thereafter potentially apply for settlement in the UK and may be entitled to bring dependants, including a partner and children.

Employers should also bear in mind that any care workers recruited under the scheme will still need to meet a minimum annual salary of £20,480, which is higher than national minimum wage.

If you have any questions in relation to recruiting migrant workers or some further information in relation to applying for a sponsor licence, then please do not hesitate to contact a member of Napthens’ Employment team.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Napthens LLP

Employment Law Specialists

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