Sundeep Rathod, our Head of Immigration recently wrote an article for Care England examining the temporary expansion to the eligibility requirements of the Health and Care Worker Visa and suggests some practical next steps for employers looking secure visas for their employees.
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted a number of imbalances within the UK economy, and an area that has particularly suffered is the Adult Social Care Sector. Hit by two unprecedented events, first Brexit and then the Covid-19 pandemic, the sector suffered an increase in the demand for services at the same time as a reduction in the number of potential workers when freedom of movement ended, and the supply of overseas workers diminished.
Recognising the need for change, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced a temporary expansion to the eligibility requirements of the Health and Care Worker Visa, making the permission available to care workers. While Senior Care Workers have been eligible since the launch of the new Points-Based System, the new changes aim to combat the lack of workers available to fill the “hands-on” practical roles of caring for the vulnerable and elderly.
The change means that the roles within SOC Code 6145 (which includes Care Assistants, Care Workers, and Support Workers) will be added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) – this follows an early recommendation from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). It is also the only role below RQF Level 3 to be added to the SOL.
The SOL comprises roles deemed by the Government to be in short supply within the UK labour market – such roles benefit from lower visa fees, a lower minimum salary threshold and individuals are exempt from having to meet a higher salary threshold before being able to apply for settlement.
Kevin Foster, Minister for Safe and Legal Migration, confirmed in his letter dated 24 December 2021 to Professor Brian Bell of the MAC that the inclusion of roles falling under SOC Code 6145 would be a temporary measure (12-month window) and that there would be an internal review at a later stage in 2022.
The expansion of the SOL is certainly a welcome move and one we hope will go some way to easing the recruitment shortages faced within the social care sector. Individuals who may be eligible for a Health and Care Worker visa will benefit from a 50% visa fee reduction, an exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge and a quicker decision on their application.
Next Steps for Employers
To obtain a Health and Care Worker Visa, eligible care workers will need to have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship for their given role. This will need to have been issued by an employer who is an approved Sponsor Licence holder.
Care providers who do not already hold a Sponsor Licence can take advantage of the expansion to the Health and Care Worker route by making an application for a Sponsor Licence now. Processing times for a Sponsor Licence application can take eight weeks, so it is advisable to apply before any confirmed recruitment plans.
Edwin Coe is a member of Care England. Our multidisciplinary Later Living & Care Services team of lawyers provide practical, expert advice to care home businesses.
This article first appeared in Care England’s November 2023 issue of the Care Agenda.