On 24 December 2021, the Government announced that care workers would be added to the Home Office’s Shortage Occupation List (SOL) for visa purposes (Biggest visa boost for social care as Health and Care Visa scheme expanded - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)). The change has followed recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) in relation to the issue of major recruitment challenges and “severe and increasing difficulties faced by the care sector”.

Preliminary findings from an independent review by the MAC have indicated that the sector’s challenges have also been exacerbated by the effect of ending free movement of labour following Brexit. The inclusion of care workers on the SOL therefore aims to address criticisms that the government had not done enough to enable care workers to enter the UK previously.

The pandemic has placed a spotlight on staff shortages within the social care sector and the additional pressures this has caused to the existing workforce. The legal requirement that workers in CQC-regulated care homes must be fully vaccinated from 11 November 2021 has also impacted recruitment and retention across the sector, therefore it is hoped that by adding care staff to the SOL, thousands of additional care workers could now be recruited to boost the adult social care workforce.

How the SOL works:

  • The SOL is designed to help migrants obtain work visas to fill jobs where there are shortages and means that care providers are now able to recruit suitable candidates outside of the UK
  • As part of the points-based immigration system, workers applying to come to the UK through the skilled worker route must reach 70 ‘points’ to be eligible for a work visa
  • Being offered a job on the SOL, is worth 20 points, therefore combined with the mandatory criteria (having an acceptable standard of English, offer from a licensed sponsor and the required skill level – worth 50 points), should ensure workers reach the necessary 70 points

Useful points to note:

  • Care workers will have to apply for a 12-month Health and Care visa and have been offered a minimum annual salary of £20,480 to qualify. They will be entitled to bring dependants, including a partner and children
  • The Health and Care Worker visa was launched in August 2020 and it allows medical professionals to come to or stay in the UK to work with the NHS, an NHS supplier or in adult social care
  • The Health and Care visa will benefit from fast-track processing, dedicated resources in processing applications and reduced visa fees
  • It is thought that the process make it quicker, cheaper and easier for social care employers to recruit eligible workers to fill vital gaps
  • The measure is expected to be brought in imminently and will make social care workers, care assistants and home care workers eligible for a minimum 12-month period
  • The Health and Care visa will offer a pathway to settlement should the worker remain employed and wish to remain in the UK
  • All roles in SOC Code 6145 will be brought into scope of this visa change. According to ONS this includes the job titles: Care Assistant, Care Worker, Carer, Home Care Assistant, Home Carer and Support Worker (Nursing Home)
  • Care providers who do not already hold a sponsor licence in the Skilled Worker route can prepare to take advantage of the offer by registering for a sponsorship license ahead of implementation
  • It is understood that providers who are new to visa sponsorship will be supported through the process through a series of engagement activities in January and February, to introduce them to the system and find out how to act as a visa sponsor.

Bevan Brittan’s specialist business immigration team would be happy to assist employers on obtaining visas for care workers.

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