NewsNew UK Immigration Rules 2024: What Healthcare Workers and Employers Need to...

New UK Immigration Rules 2024: What Healthcare Workers and Employers Need to Know

The UK immigration system is undergoing major changes in 2024 as the government aims to reduce overall net migration while still attracting top global talent, especially in the healthcare sector.

Key reforms include higher salary thresholds for skilled worker visas, restrictions on dependents for certain healthcare roles, and the replacement of the Shortage Occupation List. Here’s what you need to know about the evolving landscape of UK immigration this year.

Higher Salary Thresholds for Skilled Workers

New UK Immigration Rules 2024: What Healthcare Workers and Employers Need to Know.

Starting in April 2024, the general salary threshold for skilled worker visas will increase by nearly 50%, from £26,200 to £38,700 per year. The government believes this will help shift the focus to the “brightest and best” talent. Exceptions will apply to certain shortage occupations like nursing and teaching. However, critics argue the higher salary requirement could exacerbate labor shortages in key industries and make it harder for employers to fill roles.

Businesses may need to reevaluate budgets and recruiting strategies. Workers already in the UK on skilled visas will not be subject to the new threshold until they apply to extend their stay.

No More Dependents for Care Workers

Care workers and senior care workers applying for Health and Care Worker visas will no longer be allowed to bring dependent family members with them to the UK starting in March 2024. The government says this change, which does not affect other healthcare occupations, will help reduce net migration. But social care leaders warn that preventing care staff from bringing family could deter applicants and worsen the sector’s workforce crisis, with over 150,000 current vacancies. However, the government has stressed that there will be no cap on the number of care workers who can come to the UK through the Health and Care visa route.

Goodbye Shortage Occupation List, Hello Immigration Salary List

In another major change, the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) is being replaced in April 2024 with a new “Immigration Salary List” that will remove the 20% discount on the minimum salary for shortage occupations.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) will advise on which occupations should be on the new list, with a significant reduction expected. Employers have been able to pay foreign workers 80% of the usual “going rate” to fill positions on the SOL according to BBC.

The new Immigration Salary List will likely be much more restrictive in an effort to steer employers toward domestic workers. Healthcare roles like nurses are expected to remain on the list, but others may lose their preferential treatment.

Sponsorship Changes for Healthcare Employers

Healthcare employers should also be aware of new sponsorship requirements taking effect in 2024. Care providers in England will only be able to sponsor migrant workers for Health and Care visas if they are undertaking activities regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

This means providers solely doing non-regulated activities will not be eligible to sponsor foreign care staff.In addition, the validity period for all sponsor licenses will automatically be extended to 10 years starting in April 2024. Employers will no longer need to apply for renewals every 4 years or pay the associated fees. This is welcome news for sponsors, but the Home Office has indicated it will increase scrutiny on compliance with sponsor duties.

Faster, Cheaper Visas for Healthcare Workers

On the positive side for healthcare employers and professionals, the Health and Care visa offers an attractive route with several benefits:

  • Reduced visa application fees compared to other skilled worker visas.
  • Exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).
  • Fast-tracked processing with a decision usually within 3 weeks.
  • Ability to work in the UK for up to 5 years, with unlimited extensions if still eligible
  • Path to settlement after 5 years.

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The cost of a Health and Care visa depends on the length of stay, but is generally cheaper than other work visas. For example, a 3-year visa for an overseas applicant costs £284. With the IHS exemption, healthcare workers can save over £1000 compared to other skilled workers who will pay £1035 per year starting in 2024.

How to Apply for a Health and Care Visa

To be eligible for a Health and Care visa, you must:

  1. Be a qualified doctor, nurse, health professional or adult social care professional
  2. Have a job offer from a UK employer licensed to sponsor foreign workers
  3. Be paid the minimum salary or “going rate” for your occupation, whichever is higher (at least £26,200 per year or £10.75 per hour as of 2024)
  4. Meet the English language requirement

Your sponsor will issue you a certificate of sponsorship to apply for the visa. Applications are submitted online, with supporting documents including proof of identity, qualifications and English proficiency. You’ll need to have your photo and fingerprints taken at a visa application center to get a biometric residence permit.

Processing times are faster than other work visas, with decisions usually made within 3 weeks of biometrics. You can pay extra to get a decision within 5 working days. Once approved, you can come to the UK to start your healthcare job and remain for up to 5 years. You’ll then be able to extend as many times as needed, and apply for indefinite leave to remain after 5 years

The Future of UK Immigration

The immigration changes taking effect in 2024 reflect a post-Brexit UK seeking greater control over its borders and labor market. The government has stated its commitment to reducing overall migration while maintaining an attractive offer for top international talent, particularly in the NHS.

But concerns remain about the impact of restricting visas in social care and other key sectors already facing staff shortages. Striking the right balance will be crucial as the UK looks to recover from the pandemic and support economic growth.

Despite the new hurdles, the UK is still very much open to skilled healthcare workers from abroad. With a streamlined sponsorship system and favorable visa conditions, the Health and Care visa provides a golden opportunity for overseas professionals to advance their careers in the UK healthcare sector. Employers and applicants who stay informed of the changing rules and plan ahead will be well-positioned to succeed in the new immigration landscape.

Also Read

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  2. February 2024 Visa Bulletin Predictions: Big Changes Expected by USCIS This New Year
  3. The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Career as a Healthcare Assistant in the UK with Sponsorship
  4. 20 Companies Recruiting in Netherlands With Visa Sponsorship and Netherlands Work Permit Assistance
  5. How to Prepare for and Pass a Band 6 Nurse NHS Interview in 2024

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