The UK government has announced some major changes to the immigration rules that will affect the health and care sector and the international students who want to study and work in the UK. These changes are aimed at reducing net migration, attracting the best and brightest talent, and ensuring that the UK remains a top destination for the health and care workforce. In this article, we will explain what these changes are, how they will impact the health and care sector and the international students, and what you need to know if you are planning to apply for a UK visa in 2024.
Changes to the Student Visa Route
One of the most significant changes to the immigration rules is the restriction on the ability of international students to bring their family members (dependants) on their student visa, unless they are studying a postgraduate research programme. This means that from January 2024, international students who want to study in the UK will not be able to bring their spouses, partners, or children with them, unless they are doing a PhD or a similar level of research.
The government has also announced that overseas students will not be able to switch from the student visa route into work routes until they have completed their studies. This means that students will not be able to use the student visa as a backdoor route to work in the UK, and will have to apply for a separate work visa after they finish their course. However, the government has confirmed that the terms of the graduate route, which allows students to stay and work in the UK for two or three years after their studies, remain unchanged.
The government has said that these changes are necessary to cut net migration, which was over 500,000 from June 2021 to June 2022, partly due to the increase in student visas and their dependants. The government has also said that these changes will not affect the International Education Strategy, which aims to increase the number of international students in the UK to 600,000 by 2030.
However, these changes have been met with criticism from the higher education sector, which argues that they will deter international students from choosing the UK as their study destination, and will harm the UK’s reputation as a global leader in education and research. The sector has also expressed concern about the impact of these changes on the mental health and wellbeing of international students, who will face increased isolation and stress without their family support.
The government has said that it will work with the higher education sector to explore alternative options to ensure that the brightest and best students can continue to bring dependants when they study at the UK’s world-leading universities. The government has also said that it will review the funds that students must have to demonstrate that they can support themselves and their dependants in the UK, and that it will clamp down on unscrupulous international student agents who may be supporting inappropriate applications.
Changes to the Health and Care Worker Visa
Another important change to the immigration rules is the addition of several health and care roles to the Shortage Occupation List, which gives people in these roles an advantage in obtaining a skilled worker visa. The roles that have been added to the list include:
Senior care workers
Health services and public health managers and directors
Residential, day and domiciliary care managers
Health professionals not elsewhere classified, such as audiologists and dental hygiene therapists
These roles join the existing health and care roles on the list, such as nurses, doctors, paramedics, radiographers, and social workers. People who apply for a skilled worker visa for a role on the Shortage Occupation List will get 20 points out of the 70 points required to be eligible for a work visa. They will also benefit from lower salary thresholds, lower visa fees, and faster processing times.
The government has said that these changes are intended to make it easier for the health and care sector to recruit staff from overseas, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the vital contribution of foreign workers to the NHS and the social care system. The government has also said that these changes will support the delivery of the NHS People Plan, which aims to improve the working conditions and career development of the health and care workforce.
However, these changes have also been criticised by some groups, who argue that they are not enough to address the deepening staffing crisis in the health and care sector, which has over 110,000 vacancies across England. Some groups have also pointed out that the changes do not cover all the health and care roles that are in high demand, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and mental health nurses. Moreover, some groups have raised concerns about the impact of these changes on the health and care systems in the countries of origin of the foreign workers, which may face a brain drain and a loss of skilled staff.
The government has said that it will continue to monitor the impact of these changes on the health and care sector and the wider economy, and that it will make further adjustments to the immigration rules as needed. The government has also said that it will invest in the domestic health and care workforce, and that it will work with the international community to ensure ethical recruitment practices and mutual benefits.
What You Need to Know If You Want to Apply for a UK Visa in 2024
If you are an international student or a health and care worker who wants to apply for a UK visa in 2024, here are some things that you need to know:
You will need to apply for a UKVI account, which is a digital immigration system that will replace physical documents with an online record of your immigration status (eVisa). You will need a UKVI account to view and share information about your status and conditions, such as your right to work or rent in the UK. You will also need to update your personal details, such as your contact details or your current passport details, through your UKVI account. You do not have to pay to register for a UKVI account.
You will need to have an acceptable standard of English, an offer from a licensed sponsor, and the required skill level, which are worth 50 points. You will also need to meet the specific requirements for your visa route, such as the salary threshold, the occupation code, and the certificate of sponsorship, which are worth 20 points. You will need to reach 70 points to be eligible for a work or study visa.
You will need to have your biometric information (fingerprints and a photo) taken, and pay the visa fees and the immigration health surcharge, which will give you access to the NHS. You will also need to provide other evidence, such as your bank statements, your qualifications, and your tuberculosis test results, depending on your visa route and your circumstances.
You will need to apply for your visa online, and submit your application and your supporting documents through the UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS). You will also need to attend an appointment at a UKVCAS service point, where you will have your biometrics taken and your identity confirmed. You will then receive a decision on your visa application, which will be sent to your UKVI account.
You will need to carry your current passport, which must be registered to your UKVI account, when you travel to the UK. You will not need to carry a physical document, such as a biometric residence permit or a vignette sticker, as your immigration status will be stored online. You will be able to use an e-gate or a manual passport control to enter the UK, where your passport will be scanned and your immigration status will be checked.
The UK government has introduced some major changes to the immigration rules that will affect the health and care sector and the international students who want to study and work in the UK. These changes are part of the new points-based immigration system, which aims to reduce net migration, attract the best and brightest talent, and ensure that the UK remains a top destination for the health and care workforce. However, these changes have also been met with criticism and concern from some groups, who argue that they will have negative consequences for the higher education sector, the mental health and wellbeing of international students, the staffing crisis in the health and care sector, and the health and care systems in the countries of origin of the foreign workers.
If you are planning to apply for a UK visa in 2024, you will need to be aware of these changes and how they will impact your eligibility and application process. You will also need to register for a UKVI account, which is a digital immigration system that will replace physical documents with an online record of your immigration status.