The UK government recently announced an important update regarding the Health and Care Worker visa that allows qualified overseas health professionals to work in the UK.
Background on the Health and Care Worker Visa
Introduced in August 2020, the Health and Care Worker visa provides an accelerated and simplified visa route for healthcare professionals to come and work in the UK.To qualify, applicants must have a confirmed job offer from an approved sponsor and meet the required criteria, including qualifications, English language ability, salary thresholds, and more.
The visa offers several benefits, including expedited processing, reduced visa fees, dedicated application support teams, and no Immigration Health Surcharge. It has proven extremely popular, especially with Indian nationals. In the year ending June 2022, over 24,000 Indians received Health and Care worker visas.
The Rule Change Regarding Dependants
Previously, Health and Care worker visa holders could bring dependents, such as a spouse or children under 18 years old, to live with them in the UK.
However, in December 2023, as part of a broader strategy to reduce net migration numbers, the UK Home Secretary announced that overseas care workers would no longer be allowed to bring dependents to the UK on their visa .This rule change was expected to take effect in Spring 2024. It applies specifically to care workers in occupations classified as SOC codes 6145 and 6146. Other healthcare roles under the Health and Care visa are unaffected.
Updated Guidance in January 2024
In January 2024, the UK Home Office provided further details on the implementation of this rule change for care worker dependents.
- Care workers who are already in the UK on the Health and Care Worker visa will still be allowed to bring dependents to live with them. This includes when they extend their visa, switch employers within the same SOC codes, or apply for settlement.
- Care workers who are already in the UK but do not currently have dependents will also retain the right to bring dependents later on while they hold this visa.
- However, any care worker who enters the UK or switches into this visa route after the rule change comes into effect will not be able to bring dependents.
What This Means
In summary, the major takeaway is that the ban on dependents only applies to newly arriving care workers from Spring 2024 onwards.It will not affect those already living and working in the UK on a Health and Care Worker visa when the rule takes effect. They will still be allowed to live with their spouse and children in the UK under the terms of their visa.
This provides more certainty for current health and care staff from overseas, ensuring they can continue residing in the UK with their families.At the same time, it also gives prospective applicants a window to get their application submitted and approved before Spring 2024 to take advantage of the current rules allowing dependents.
Applying for the Health and Care Worker Visa
For overseas healthcare professionals interested in working in the UK, the Health and Care Worker visa represents the most straightforward pathway.Here is a step-by-step overview of the key requirements and process to secure this visa:
Step 1: Receive a Job Offer
To apply under the Health and Care Worker visa route, you must first receive a formal job offer from an approved sponsor
- NHS Trusts
- Independent healthcare providers with CQC registration
- Adult social care providers with CQC registration
- Suppliers of goods and services to the NHS
The job offer must be for an eligible occupation, such as doctor, nurse, radiographer, social worker, care worker and more. See the full list of qualifying roles.
Step 2: Meet the Visa Requirements
In addition to having a valid job offer, you must meet certain criteria to secure a Health and Care Worker visa.
• Qualifications: Hold an approved professional qualification relevant to the offered role.
• English Language: Prove your English ability at CEFR Level B1 or higher.
• Salary Threshold: Earn at least £20,480 per year or the going rate for your occupation.
• Tuberculosis Test: Get a TB test if you are from a listed country.
• Identity: Provide a valid passport or other travel ID.
• Good Character: Get a certificate of good character if required.
Step 3: Submit Visa Application
Once you secure an eligible job offer and meet all the criteria above, you can complete and submit your Health and Care Worker visa application. This is done online via the UK Immigration: ID Check app.As part of the streamlined process, you get access to a dedicated application support team for any questions.
Step 4: Attend Visa Appointment
After submitting your application, you will be prompted to schedule a biometric enrollment appointment at your nearest visa application center. This is to verify your identity through fingerprinting and photographs.
Step 5: Receive Visa Decision
If approved, you will receive your 30-month Health and Care Worker visa. You can then travel to the UK to start your new healthcare job.The whole process takes just 3-4 weeks on average when using the priority service – far faster than other work visas.
Key Tips for Securing a Health and Care Job Offer
The most critical component for the Health and Care visa application is securing that initial job offer from an approved sponsor. Here are some top tips to help with your job search:
Have the Right Qualifications and Experience
UK employers want candidates that can demonstrate the specialist expertise needed to perform the role effectively. Make sure your qualifications and background align closely with the requirements of the positions you are applying for.
For regulated healthcare professions, having registration with the relevant UK body will strengthen your application.
Showcase Soft Skills
In addition to your clinical capabilities, also highlight critical soft skills like teamwork, communication, resilience, empathy and compassion. These attributes show you can provide high-quality, patient-centered care.
Adapt Your Resume
Tailor your CV specifically for UK health and care roles. Adopt standard British date formats, qualification terminology, organization names and more.Focus on showcasing transferable experiences and your commitment to professional development.
Use Specialist Job Boards
Consider Recruitment Agencies
Network and Make Connections
Attending industry events, conferences and networking opportunities can help you meet relevant contacts and decision-makers. LinkedIn is also invaluable for connecting directly with UK health and care employers.Securing that initial job offer is the biggest hurdle.
By following these tips and proactively engaging with key stakeholders, your chances of success will be vastly improved.
Outlook for Health and Care Jobs in 2024
While the UK continues facing chronic shortages of healthcare staff across both the NHS and private sector, the demand for overseas recruits remains higher than ever. Here is a look at some of the latest projections:
Over 110,000 Nursing Vacancies
Workforce data shows there are now over 110,000 unfilled nursing jobs in the NHS and independent providers in England alone. This represents a staggering vacancy rate of 10%.To plug these gaps, ambitious international recruitment campaigns are bringing thousands of nurses from countries like India, the Philippines and across Africa. Still, far more healthcare migrants are needed.
Social Care Facing 9.9% Staff Shortages
The outlook is equally concerning for Britain’s adult social care sector with over 150,000 current job openings – meaning nearly 1 in 10 roles are unfilled.With demand increasing due to the UK’s rapidly aging population, the government plans to recruit 18,000 international care workers through 2025 to relieve overwhelmed providers.
Additional Visas Available Through 2025
Alongside standard Health and Care Worker visas, the UK Home Office is making thousands of extra temporary visas available to care professionals each year up until 2025.
Initiatives like the International Health and Care Visa Scheme provide free 12-month visa extensions – offering overseas staff a longer period to work in the UK.This demonstrates that despite the broader goal to cut immigration numbers, Britain will continue relying heavily on foreign health workers due to domestic labor shortfalls.
For those looking to launch an international healthcare career, the UK remains a land of immense opportunity for years to come.
Top Locations Hiring Overseas Health and Care Staff
While healthcare shortages are being felt nationwide, certain regions across Britain are more acutely impacted and actively hiring overseas recruits. Here is a breakdown of some top locations:
As the most populous UK nation with the largest health infrastructure, England offers the greatest number and variety of health and care roles for migrants.Regions facing the highest staffing deficits currently include:
- London: As a world-leading hub for medical research, education and complex care, the capital has insatiable demand. London’s cosmopolitan environment also suits many global recruits.
- South East: Affluent areas like Surrey, Sussex and Kent have expanding and aging populations, fueling soaring community care needs.
- East Midlands: Major NHS Trusts across Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire are ramping up international hiring.
While smaller than England, Scotland also presents excellent prospects within its distinctive healthcare system. Priority areas include:
- Edinburgh and Lothians: As a center of clinical excellence and learning, the capital region offers premier roles.
- Glasgow: The vibrant city is a technology and life sciences powerhouse with two major universities and teaching hospitals.
- Grampian: Stretching up to Aberdeen, this northern area has world-class medical research paired with stunning landscapes.
Wales presents a quieter lifestyle outside major cities. Top options include:
- Cardiff: As the economic engine and administrative capital, the metropolitan area drives health sector growth.
- Swansea Bay: Major investments in research, training and infrastructure are elevating this coastal region.
For internationally educated nurses, care assistants, paramedics and medical support staff, Wales offers incredible quality of life.
While smallest by population, Northern Ireland provides unique job options, including:
- Belfast: The capital and surrounding area offers diverse openings across primary, secondary and community care.
- Western HSC: Spanning picturesque towns like Enniskillen and Derry, this trust needs more staff.
With lower living costs than other UK regions, Northern Ireland allows income and savings to stretch further for migrant health workers.
The UK’s Health and Care Worker visa represents an outstanding opportunity for overseas medical professionals to advance their career while experiencing life in Britain. Despite imminent rule changes preventing new visa holders from bringing dependents, the visa’s popularity and importance are poised to continue growing.
For those already working in the UK’s health and care sectors, the updated guidance provides helpful clarity that they can remain in the country with family members.With no shortage of vacancies lasting for years to come, the UK will continue relying heavily on migrant healthcare staff. By targeting regions with the highest need and understanding how to navigate the visa system, your chances achieving this dream move are better than ever.