The Home Office and the Department of Health and Social Care of the UK have announced in a press release that the Health and Care Visa scheme will be expanded so that additional care workers can submit their visa applications to work in the UK.
From 2022, social care workers, care assistants, and home care workers will be eligible for the Health and Care Visa for a 12-month period.
Launched in August 2020, the Health and Care visa seeks to help healthcare workers from abroad come to the UK to work with the NHS, an NHS supplier, or in adult social care. Because it is an important sector, especially in the context of a pandemic, the Health and Care visa has a reduced fee (-50%) and implies an exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge. It also has priority at the time of the revision of the visa application, meaning that the decision comes to the applicants earlier.
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) suggested a visa boost to amplify the available care personnel in the framework of a new wave of COVID-19 led by the Omicron variant. The visa boost follows a £462.5 million investment in the Workforce Recruitment and Retention Fund, on top of the £500 million for “workforce training, qualifications and wellbeing” of the Health and Social Care Levy.
“It is vital that we continue to do all we can to protect the social care sector during the pandemic and beyond”, said Health and Social Care secretary Sajid Javid. “These measures, together with the series of support packages announced since September, will help us ensure short term sustainability and success for our long-term vision to build social care back better.”
The pandemic is responsible for a care staff shortage that puts extra pressure on the current workforce in the social care sector. The changes in the Health and Care Visa aim at filling vital gaps in the area.
“The care sector is experiencing unprecedented challenges prompted by the pandemic and the changes we’ve made to the health and care visa will bolster the workforce and help alleviate some of the pressures currently being experienced,” said Home Secretary Priti Patel. “This is our New Plan for Immigration in action, delivering our commitment to support the NHS and the wider health and care sector by making it easier for health professionals to live and work in the UK”.
As recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), social care workers and home carers will be added to the Shortage Occupation List. This means that carers must have an annual salary of £20,480 at least to qualify for the Health and Care visa.
Additional requirements announced so far are for people looking to work in CQC-regulated care homes. These workers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by April 1st, 2022, in order to comply with the current norms and apply for the Health and Care visa. Vaccination centers will offer priority access for social care and unpaid care personnel as they’re part of what the NHS England considers “frontline staff”.