On The List: Care Workers Eligible for Skilled Worker Visas
On 24 January 2022 the Home Office published changes to the Skilled Worker route for care workers.
From 15 February 2022, care assistants, care workers, carers, home care assistants, home carers and support workers (nursing home) have been included on the Shortage Occupation List, making these roles eligible for the Skilled Worker visa route.
Previously these roles were considered, by the Home Office, to be too low skilled to qualify for a visa, leaving the care sector struggling to recruit vital staff.
The change has been driven by recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) who, in relation to recruitment, have identified “severe and increasing difficulties faced by the care sector”.
Recruitment challenges in the care sector have been exacerbated by the end of free movement of labour following Brexit and came into sharp focus during the covid pandemic. The inclusion of care workers on the Shortage Occupation List aims to address criticism that the Government needed to do more to support this vital sector. Opening a route to recruit from overseas is seen by many sector specialists as a viable mechanism for starting to address the recruitment crisis in the sector.
Care workers are now included in the category of occupations in the health and care sector which are eligible for a Health and Care visa, a subcategory of the Skilled Worker visa. This visa type benefits from reduced visa fees and is exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge, a saving of £624 per year per applicant. The Health and Care visa should benefit from fast-track processing, making the process quicker, and cheaper for social care employers to recruit workers to fill vital skills gaps.
Industry experts have warned however, this is not considered to be a panacea to the sector’s recruitment crisis, as navigating the immigration system can be challenging, slow and costly. New sponsor licence applications are currently taking 8 -10 weeks to be processed by the Home Office, with applications often rejected for minor errors or omissions. Once a licence is in place, already stretched care providers will need to be able to cover the visa fees, and associated costs, and meet minimum salary requirements for a sponsored care worker role which has been set by the Home Office at £20,480 gross per year and £10.10 per hour.
While not a complete solution by any means, the addition of care workers into the visa system has been on the whole welcomed by the industry.
If you operate in the care sector and would like to understand more about how to secure an immigration licence and/or how to recruit from overseas, Freeths’ specialist business immigration team are available to advise on all immigration licence and visa matters.
If you would like any further information in relation to the above, please do not hesitate to contact Emma Brooksbank, Business Immigration Partner.
The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.
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