By Mandie Sewa, Head of Immigration at Brevis Law (www.brevis.co.uk)
The UK has long been a popular destination for international care professionals seeking to enhance their careers and gain valuable experience in a diverse and dynamic healthcare system. However, understanding the various visa routes available can be a daunting task. In this article, we will explore the most common options and provide guidance on how to navigate the UK visa system.
Heath & Care visa
This visa allows medical professionals and their families to come to or stay in the UK to do an eligible job with the NHS, NHS supplier or adult social care.
To qualify you must:
• Be a qualified doctor, nurse, health professional or adult social care professional. There are over 30 roles that are eligible;
• Work for a UK employer approved by the Home Office who has issued a ‘Certificate of Sponsorship’ (CoS) containing specific information about the role; and
• Be paid a minimum salary, the amount depends on the actual role you will be employed for.
Additionally, you must meet the English language requirements and have funds to support yourself and any family members, unless your employer states on your CoS that they will support you.
The application fee for this visa is significantly less than the Skilled Worker (£247 per person if the visa is for up to 3 years, or £479 per person if the visa is valid for more than 3 years) regardless of whether you apply from the UK or overseas. Eligible applicants and their families are also automatically exempt from paying the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) which is usually £624 for each year the visa is valid.
Skilled Worker visa
The Skilled Worker visa allows you to come to or stay in the UK to do an eligible job with an approved employer. Like the Health & Care visa you will need a job offer for an eligible role, work for a UK employer approved by the Home Office, have a CoS issued by your employer, and be paid a minimum salary which depends on the type of work you will be doing. Again, you will need to show that you can meet the English language requirements and have funds to support yourself unless your employer agrees to do this.
However, application fees are higher (the standard fee ranges from £625 to £1,423) and you must pay the IHS.
If your intention is to settle in the UK, both of the above routes allow you to do this.
If you’re considering pursuing further education in the UK, a Student visa may be the most suitable option. This visa allows you to study at a recognised educational institution and, depending on your course, work part-time during term-time and full-time during holidays. You may need to show that you have enough money to support yourself depending on which country you are coming from. You’ll also need to show that you can speak, read, write, and understand English. The level will depend on the type of course you’ll be studying.
From 1 January 2024 only students on postgraduate courses will be able to bring their family members with them. A change in the Immigration Rules in July 2023, means you can’t switch to any of the worker categories unless you’ve completed your studies, only upon successful completion of your course will be eligible to switch.
Top tips for your visa application
• Navigating the UK visa system can be complex, and it’s crucial to seek professional advice to ensure a smooth application process. It’s important that you:
• Familiarise yourself with the different visa routes and their requirements to determine which is most suitable for you.
• Start networking and applying for positions in the UK with employers who are licensed sponsors to secure a job offer if you want to come under the Health & Care or Skilled Worker routes.
Collect all the required documents, e.g. your passport, educational certificates, and proof of English language proficiency. Keep in mind that some documents may need to be translated into English.
Seek professional advice from a specialist immigration lawyer who can guide you through the process and ensure that your application meets all the necessary requirements to avoid delay of refusal.
Navigating the UK visa routes for international care professionals can be challenging, but with careful planning and expert guidance, it is possible to achieve your career goals in the UK’s vibrant healthcare sector.