The key changes mean that for a 12-month period, care assistants, care workers, carers, home care assistants, home carers and support workers in nursing homes will be eligible to apply for the more advantageous Health and Care Visa and be added to the Shortage Occupation List.
Care workers recruited to work in the UK can also be joined by dependent partners and children and will be offered an opportunity to permanently settle should they remain employed for five years. The changes to the visa scheme come into force on 15 February 2022.
This means that for applicants and any accompanying partner and children:
- the visa fee for a standard application (up to a three-year stay) is reduced to £232
- the visa fee for an application for a stay of three years or longer is reduced to £464
- the removal of the £2,496 Health Surcharge fee
- the minimum salary requirement is reduced to £20,480.
Applicants for the Health and Care Visa will also benefit from fast-track processing and dedicated resources in processing applications, so decisions on visa applications should be made within three weeks of all the information being provided.
To obtain a Health and Care Visa applicants will need the following.
- A valid Certificate of Sponsorship, issued by an employer that has been granted a sponsor licence by the Home Office.
- To prove they can read, write, speak and understand English to at least level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale, there are exemptions for applicants from some specified countries.
- At least £1,270 in their bank account to show they can support themselves in the UK. Partners and children will also need to prove they can support themselves while they’re in the UK and have £285 for a partner, £315 for one child and £200 for each additional child in their bank account. If an employer is covering the first month’s costs, the certificate of sponsorship must confirm this.
The UK Immigration System is points-based, which means an applicant will also need to be able to demonstrate they score a minimum of 70 points against a specific set of requirements. The first group of requirements are all mandatory.
Offer of a job by an approved sponsor
Job at an appropriate skill level
English language skills at level B1 (intermediate)
Meeting all of these gives an applicant 50 points. A further 20 points is now automatically obtained for roles covered by these changes, giving the required total of 70 points. You can find full details of the points-based system on the GOV.UK site.
To help social care employers and providers in taking advantage of the extended visa scheme a series of engagement events are planned for January and February (details to follow). These will be particularly useful to providers who are new to visa sponsorship and may need help in understanding the visa sponsor role and requirements; care providers who do not currently have a sponsor licence can also apply for one ahead of these changes coming into effect. The cost of a licence is currently £536 for small businesses and charities and £1,476 for medium and large organisations; it can take up to eight weeks to process a licence application.
You can find more information on the Health and Care Visa on the GOV.UK website.