Who is eligible for the new ‘Health and Care’ visa?

With the government introducing a ‘Health and Care Visa’ as part of its new immigration system, immigration lawyer Lauren Butler looks at who will be included under the new visa, and who will miss out.

Hospital bed
Red apple
Lauren Butler

As if there weren't enough already happening in 2020, here's a reminder: from 1 January 2021 citizens of the EU will need immigration permission to live, work and study in the UK. Any business wishing to employ an EU citizen will need to buy a sponsor license and pay an Immigration Skills Charge of £1,000 per worker per year.   

Lauren Butler
Lauren Butler

The effect on health and social care will be enormous. According to the Department of Health and Social Care, European Economic Area (EEA – EU member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) nationals make up around 15 per cent of doctors, nurses and health visitors in the London area. In adult social care, there is a greater proportional reliance on EEA nationals, made more acute by the current shortages in the field (122,000 vacancies according to a recent King's Fund report).  

As announced in February 2020, the new Skilled Worker visa programme will involve minimum incomes and a system of points including "tradeable" points. This sounds grim for the health and social care field – particularly for those in lower-paid roles. We were therefore encouraged by the promised U-turn in the form of the ‘Health and Care Visa’.

We immigration lawyers stampeded over to the government website on 11 July to read the 130-page "further details" report on the new immigration system. The good news is that under the Skilled Worker programme, there is in fact a special subset called a ‘Health and Care Visa’, open to "doctors, nurses, and other health professionals", with a promise of "reduced application fees" and dedicated support for eligible individuals to come to the UK with their families. The phrase "other health professionals" sounds encouragingly broad.

The bad news, lurking in Table 31, is that many vital health and social care roles are categorised as entirely outside the Skilled Worker programme and thus ineligible for this route. In this table, the government makes it clear that the following professions will have no access to the Health and Care Visa:

  • Emergency medical technicians;

  • Care workers and home carers;

  • Care assistant;

  • Care worker;

  • Carer;

  • Home care assistant;

  • Home carer; and

  • Support worker (nursing home).

Despite its length, the 11 July report is surprisingly short on details. It remains to be seen how the new system will be implemented into the Immigration Rules and the attendant guidance documents, particularly around application processes and evidential requirements. In the next few months we will be watching for more details.

Lauren Butler is Head of Immigration at the Manchester branch of Fountain Solicitors.