Exploring the New Health and Care Visa
On 14th July 2020, the Home Office and the Department of Health and Social Care announced the new Health and Care visa. In a joint statement, they said, “The Home Secretary and Health and Social Care Secretary have together developed the Health and Care Visa to demonstrate the government’s commitment to delivering for the NHS and wider health and care sector. It is designed to make it easier and quicker for the best global health professionals to work in the NHS, for NHS commissioned service providers, and ineligible occupations in the social care sector.”
It is likely that the new visa is seen as a way to deal with the twin challenges of approximately 100,000 outstanding job vacancies in the NHS, meaning there are severe shortfalls in skills and capacity, and the end of free movement as a result of Brexit. The UK has been a default destination for overseas health professionals for decades, with over 170,000 of the current 1.28 NHS million staff being of non-British nationality. It is hoped that with this new health and care visa, this will continue.
The health and care visa opened for applications on 4th August 2020.
What Are the Benefits of The Health and Care Visa?
The new health and care visa will provide ‘fast-tracked’ entry to the UK for the purposes of working in the health and care sector, reduced visa application fees, and successful applicants will be offered ‘dedicated support to come to the UK with their families. In addition, health and care visa holders and their dependant family members will be exempt from paying the £400 per year (per person) immigration healthcare surcharge. The Home Office says they aim to process health and care visa applications within three weeks of biometric information being provided. This is much faster than the regular processing time for a Tier 2 general visa of at least eight weeks. The application fee for a three-year visa is only £232 (whether applying inside or outside of the UK) and dependants pay the same amount. The standard fee for a Tier 2 general visa, by comparison, is £704 per person if applying outside of the UK (for a non-shortage occupation role).
Who Is the Health and Care Visa Available To?
Your employer will advise you if you are eligible to apply under the new health and care visa. According to the Home Office website, to apply for a Tier 2 (Health and Care) visa, you will need to have a job offer from either:
- the NHS
- an organisation providing medical services to the NHS, or;
- an organisation providing adult social care
A full list of the qualifying employer types can be found on the Home Office’s Tier 2 policy guidance.
The current scheme is for individuals from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, however, from 1st January 2021, this will apply to EU/EEA nationals too.
To be eligible for the health and care visa, you must be qualified:
- Biological scientists and biochemist
- Physical Scientist
- Medical Practitioner
- Ophthalmic Optician
- Dental practitioner
- Medical Radiographer
- Health Professionals not elsewhere classified
- Occupational Therapist
- Speech and Language Therapist
- Therapy professionals not elsewhere classified
- Social Worker, or;
Applicants will need to provide:
- a valid Certificate of Sponsorship
- evidence that they will be paid the appropriate salary (which meets the relevant salary threshold)
- proof of their knowledge of the English language
- evidence of sufficient personal savings when arriving in the UK
- a travel history over the preceding five years
- a valid tuberculosis test results where necessary
Gaining Sponsorship from A Licensed Healthcare Employer
The Health and Care visa will only be available to individuals who have been offered a role by a Tier 2 licensed sponsor in the UK. A full list of Tier 2 sponsors is available online. The Tier 2 guidance also states, “The employer will be required to include a brief explanation in the Certificate of Sponsorship setting out how the employee will meet the Health and Care Visa requirement. The employer will also be responsible for informing the applicant they are eligible for the Health and Care Visa so the applicant can correctly complete the visa application form.
Where an employer is an organisation that provides services commissioned by the NHS, evidence of the contract arrangements with the NHS may need to be provided to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) as proof that applicants are eligible to apply for a Health and Care Visa”. This makes it clear that the onus is on Tier 2 employers who wish to benefit from the new health and care visa to inform prospective employees they are eligible under this scheme to ensure they complete their visa application form correctly. This is because the application for this visa is made on the standard Tier 2 general form, and the applicant must tick whether they are using the new health and care visa route. If they tick this option but are not eligible, then they are likely to be rejected.
Bringing Family Members to the UK
Non-EEA dependant family members, including your spouse/partner and children, can be included on your health and care visa application and will be able to join you in the UK. You will need to prove that your dependant family members can be financially supported while in the UK. The main applicant will need to show that £630 is available to each dependant family member (whether they apply with you or separately), in addition to the £945 of savings they need for themselves.
It is clear by the wording of the policy guidance that accompanies the new health and cares visa that the government wants to lower the barriers to entry for qualified health professions and social care workers. Whether this is enough to woo enough healthcare workers to our shores in the years to come remains to be seen. For further clarification or expert assistance with your immigration matter, you can speak with one of our experienced immigration lawyers.
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