CareCare StaffHealthcareHighlightsNewsSocial Care

Ban On Dependents Decimates Health & Care Visa Applications

Health and Care visa applications fell from 18,300 during August 2023 to 2,400 in March 2024, after the new legislation affecting dependents was introduced in December 2023.

The visa allows medical professionals to come to or stay in the UK to do an eligible job with the NHS, an NHS supplier or in adult social care.

To qualify for a Health and Care Worker visa, a person must:

  • be a qualified doctor, nurse, health professional or adult social care professional
  • work in an eligible health or social care job
  • work for a UK employer that’s been approved by the Home Office
  • have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from your employer with information about the role you’ve been offered in the UK
  • be paid a minimum salary – how much depends on the type of work you do

If a care worker or senior care worker working in England, your employer must also be registered with the Care Quality Commission.

However, on 4 December 2023, the Home Office announced changes to visa rules intended to reduce immigration and published further details on 21 December.

These changes have now come into force, following 2 sets of Immigration Rules changes released on 19 February 2024 and 14 March 2024:

  • the baseline general salary to be sponsored for a ‘Skilled Worker’ visa has increased from £26,200 to £38,700, while the ‘going rate’ minimum salary specific to each job has also gone up significantly.
  • a list of jobs for which it is possible to sponsor someone for a ‘Skilled Worker’ visa at a reduced minimum salary has been made shorter and renamed the Immigration Salary List
  • the minimum income normally required to sponsor someone for a spouse/partner visa has risen from £18,600 to £29,000.
  • Social care workers arriving from overseas are no longer allowed to bring dependants (that is, partners and children) on their visa, which has led to a significant fall in application.

In response to new figures Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, said:
“Since the Government’s announcement of their intention to ban overseas care workers from bringing dependents to the UK, the number of overseas care worker applications has decreased by more than half. This directly contradicts the Government’s own estimation of impact, which stated the policy would not affect applicant numbers. With the policy now in place, the sector has been left to pick up the pieces.”

Between April and September 2023, 88,800 ‘main’ applications were made for people who want to go into a care and support role. Between October 2023 and April 2024, only 40,800 applications were made, accounting for a reduction of over 50%.

When the policy was first anounced in December 2023, Care England and others in the sector warned that it risked reducing overseas applicants at a time when they were a lifeline for the sector.

Professor Green spoke in front of the Health and Social Care Select Committee in December 2023, noting the care sector was blindsided by this change. He also pointed out the clear disparity in the way healthcare and social care are treated, with no such legislation chances being made for international recruits for the NHS.

Professor Green continues:
“While we all want to see a sector that can be sustained by domestic labour, there is nothing to suggest the Government’s workforce reforms have made the sector a sufficiently attractive destination for work such that it can cope with this drop in international applicants. These figures only serve to renew the need for meaningful workforce reforms that make the sector an attractive destination for domestic staff if we are going to shut off the route for overseas recruitment.”