Skilled worker visa changes: steps for healthcare employers to take

read time: 3 mins

On Monday 4 December 2023, the home secretary announced a five-point plan which aims to reduce net migration to the UK by 300,000 people each year. As a result of this plan, a number of changes are being introduced which will impact the healthcare sector. 

This guide describes the changes in detail and advises on next steps for employers.

What’s changing? 

Skilled worker sponsorship

Currently the minimum salary for the skilled worker route is £26,200 or the ‘going rate’ for the role the worker is in, whichever is the higher. The government has announced that this minimum salary will increase by almost 50%, to £38,700 in the spring of 2024. 

Employers will therefore be required to pay those being sponsored under the Skilled Worker route £38,700 or the going rate for the role, whichever is higher. 

Other changes affecting skilled worker sponsorship include:

  • Skilled workers will need to pay an increased immigration health surcharge (IHS) of £1,035 per year as part of their visa application. Currently the IHS is £624 per year.
  • Skilled workers will still be able to bring their dependants with them to the UK.
  • Those already in the skilled worker route before the immigration rules change should be exempt from the new salary levels when they change sponsor, extend their visa or settle in the UK, provided they aren’t moving to different occupations. 

Health and care worker visa

The health and care visa is a sub-type of the skilled worker visa. The government’s changes will affect those on health and care visas, including nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals, differently to other skilled workers as follows:

  • The increased salary threshold of £38,700 will not apply to these roles.
  • Workers will remain exempt from paying the IHS.
  • Only CQC-registered providers in England will be able to sponsor health and care visa applicants.
  • Those on health and care visas will still be able to bring dependants to the UK, with the exception being that care workers and senior care workers will no longer be able to bring dependants to the UK as part of their visa application.
  • Care workers and senior care workers in the route before the immigration rules change, but who have not yet brought in dependants, will be allowed to bring in dependants during their sponsorship on this visa.

What next steps can employers take? 

The changes will have the greatest impact on individuals sponsored within the healthcare sector on skilled worker visas who do not qualify for the health and care visa, whilst the changes being made to the health and care visa route will predominantly affect the care sector. 

As a result of these changes, we recommend employers in the healthcare sector consider their future business planning, and if there are individuals that the business wants to sponsor in the near future, to consider doing so before the changes outlined above are implemented in spring 2024. 

Specifically in the case of skilled workers, we would recommend employers review the roles that they currently sponsor individuals in, or intend to sponsor individuals in, to consider whether they will still be eligible for sponsorship following the introduction of the announced changes, in particular the increased salary requirement. 

For further information or advice on any business immigration matters, please contact a member of our immigration team.

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