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On 24 December 2021, the Home Office announced a temporary concession under which care workers and home carers will be eligible for sponsorship on a Health and Care Worker visa (a form of Skilled Worker visa under the UK’s points based immigration system) and that the role will also be added to the Shortage Occupation List. This concession is being introduced to address critical staff shortages within the social care sector.
The Health and Care Worker visa was launched in August 2020 as part of the Skilled Worker visa route, allowing certain medical professionals, such as qualified doctors and nurses, to be sponsored to work within the NHS, for an NHS supplier or in eligible roles in adult social care. A Health and Care Worker visa comes with notable benefits for visa applicants (and their dependants), such as fast-track visa processing, a 50% visa application fee reduction, an exemption from paying the Immigration Health Surcharge (which usually costs £624 per year of the visa) and is a route to permanent settlement in the UK.
However, under the current rules, the only care workers eligible for sponsorship under the Skilled Worker route are ‘senior care workers’ meaning that most entry level or junior care roles cannot be filled with migrant workers requiring sponsorship. These new measures mean that vital roles such as care assistants, care workers, carers, home care assistants, home carers and support workers at nursing homes will all be eligible for sponsorship.
In addition, the role will be added to the Shortage Occupation List, which is a list of roles deemed by the UK Government to be in short supply within the UK’s resident labour market. The benefit of being on the Shortage Occupation List is that the minimum salary requirement for these roles will be lowered to £20,480, instead of the general Skilled Worker minimum salary requirement of £25,600.
These measures are expected to come into effect in early 2022, for a minimum of 12 months, after which time they will be reviewed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the extent of staff shortages within the social care sector, placing pressure on the existing workforce, despite the ongoing dedication of social care staff delivering care under challenging circumstances. Therefore, whilst temporary, these measures will still be welcomed by employers in the care sector who have been struggling with skills shortages and recruitment issues.
In order to sponsor a non-settled worker in an eligible care role, employers will first need to hold a Sponsor Licence from the Home Office. Therefore, if your business does not already hold a Sponsor Licence, we recommend making a Sponsor Licence application ahead of these measures being implemented. Sponsor Licences take around 6- 8 weeks from the date of application to be granted by the Home Office, so an early application is recommended in order to take full advantage of these measures when they are introduced.
For advice on sponsoring workers under the Health and Care Worker visa and/or Skilled Worker visa routes, including advice and assistance with making a sponsor licence application, please contact a member of Ashfords’ Immigration Team.