The UK government has introduced a new health and care visa which will come into effect from 4 August 2020. We run through what this means for businesses and individuals.
The government’s aim is to make it easier for businesses to attract top healthcare professionals from around the world and make it cheaper and faster for them to enter the UK or seek leave to remain.
Who can apply for the health and care visa?
Individuals will still need to satisfy the usual tier 2 (general) criteria for entry clearance or leave to remain which apply to skilled workers. These criteria include:
- holding a valid certificate of sponsorship;
- submitting proof of the appropriate salary which meets the relevant threshold;
- evidencing a good working knowledge of the English language;
- demonstrating access to sufficient personal savings for when they arrive in the UK if applying for entry clearance if maintenance is not being certified by their sponsor;
- evidencing the ability to travel and the ability to provide a full travel history for the previous five-year period;
- provide a criminal record certificate from any country where they have resided for 12 months or more within the last 10 years where the job will involve working with vulnerable people; and
- agree to a tuberculosis test where the individual is entering from a listed country.
In addition to the above though, those seeking to apply for a health and care visa will need to evidence that they are entering the UK to take a job in one of the occupations specified within the standard occupational classifications (SOC). At present, SOC include positions such as medical practitioners, dental practitioners, nurses, midwives and physiotherapists amongst others.
Applicants will also be required to demonstrate that they will be employed or engaged by a recognised employer such as an NHS foundation trust, an NHS trust, NHS England, NHS Blood and Transplant, the Care Quality Commission or a local authority among others.
How does this impact employers?
On top of their usual tier 2 visa obligations, employers will be required in the certificate of sponsorship to provide a brief explanation as to how the applicant will meet the requirements above. Where the applicants are being employed as part of a contract to supply services commissioned by the NHS, employers should be prepared to share details of the contract arrangements with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
Employers also assume responsibility for informing employees of their eligibility to apply for the new visa so businesses are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the new eligibility guidelines and processes.
What are the benefits to applying?
Reduction in fees
Individuals, their partners and dependants applying for the visa will benefit from a reduced application fee. The UK government have also announced that they will be exempt from paying the immigration health surcharge, a scheme designed to collect contributions from migrants towards the running costs of the NHS. Indeed, many have already received reimbursements of this charge where payment was made on or after 31 March.
Those applying ordinarily for a tier 2 visa as a skilled worker face a wait time of between eight and 20 weeks for a decision from the Home Office. Individuals applying under the health and care visa can expect to receive a decision far quicker with the government pledging to provide a response within three weeks of the biometrics being successfully enrolled.
A dedicated support team has been established within the UKVI to specifically deal with any issues that those applying for a health and care visa might have. This team will be able to assist with any part of the application process with the aim of eliminating uncertainty and stress for applicants.
The introduction of the health and care visa is a welcome boost for the health sector which was over-stretched and exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. With applications opening from 4 August, businesses seeking to take full advantage of the prompt turnaround time and reduced application fees ought to familiarise themselves sooner rather than later of the new eligibility criteria to really make the most of this visa.