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Significant changes to the skilled worker visa - health and social care

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By Nick Chronias


Published 07 December 2023

The facts

The government has announced significant changes to the Skilled Worker visa route as from Spring 2024 which are likely to have a real impact on the ability of care, and possibly health providers, to recruit overseas workers. These are part of a series of measures to bring down UK net migration.

James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, announced on 3 December 2023 that the minimum annual salary under the Skilled Worker route would be increased from £26,200 to £38,700.

However, Mr. Cleverly added that the increase would not apply to the 'Health and Care Worker visa' which will come as a relief to NHS Trusts, private health providers, and care homes. Nevertheless, employers in the health and care sector will be required to pay employees the new minimum of £38,700 where the role is not one specified under the Health and Care visa.

However, 'care workers' will no longer be able to bring dependants (partners and children) with them to the UK. It is unclear as yet whether that restriction will apply to all roles under the Health and Care visa, or whether it will just apply to care workers, but based on the Home Secretary's statement it is likely only to apply to care worker roles. In our experience his change will have a detrimental impact on the ability to recruit overseas workers if they are unable to be accompanied to the UK by their family members. As yet there is no date for the changes but the government has said the changes will be made in the spring.

Although the changes will not affect existing hires, it is unclear whether the new rules will apply to extension applications (renewals). A spokesperson for the Prime Minister has said that similar changes to the 'partner visa', where the minimum income is being increased from £18,600 to £38,700, will apply to extensions. The new rules are highly likely to apply to a change of role where a new visa application for existing employees is required.

In addition, the 'shortage occupation list', in which specified roles can be paid 20% less than the going rate, is to be scrapped.

What this means for employers

No doubt all of this will be of considerable concern to health and social care employers who continue to recruit overseas in the face of shortages of trained employees in the UK. It remains to be seen whether any of the changes will be challenged in the courts. The ban on bringing dependants to the UK for care workers could be in breach of the right to family life, as given in the European Convention of Human Rights, if there is no route to sponsor a family member, particularly if the rule changes do apply to workers already in the UK as Skilled Workers.

Practically, employers who will be affected by the changes should consider bringing forward any overseas recruitment plans where they can.

There are certainly major changes ahead and employers are advised to keep a close eye on any further announcements.

We will provide further information as and when it becomes available.

If you would like to discuss these changes or any other immigration issue, please contact the co-author of this article, Allan Briddock, on abriddock@dacbeachcroft.com.