Health and care visa system included in new immigration plans
Plans for a fast-track health and care visa have been included as part of the proposed framework for the new points-based immigration system that will replace freedom of movement from January 1, 2021.
Home secretary Priti Patel said that the new system would act as an incentive for employers to invest in the domestic workforce, while simultaneously attracting “the best and brightest from around the world”.
The health and care visa will be provided to individuals who have a confirmed job offer in one of several “skilled” roles within the NHS or care industry, as well applying to roles for NHS service providers including doctors, nurses, radiographers, social workers and paramedics.
Under the points-based system, any who wish to live and work in the UK must accumulate 70 points.
Two of the mandatory requirements for the health and care visa, which include having an approved job offer and being able to speak English, would together be worth 50 points.
There is also a minimum salary of £20,480, but more points would be awarded if an individual would earn over the general salary threshold of £25,600.
Further points are also awarded for people who hold a relevant PhD for their role, or who have job offers in so-called “shortage occupations” such as nursing and civil engineering where recruitment is most needed.
In a written statement addressed to the House of Commons, Patel said: "At a time where an increased number of people across the UK are looking for work, the new points-based system will encourage employers to invest in the domestic UK workforce, rather than simply relying on labour from abroad.
"But we are also making necessary changes, so it is simpler for employers to attract the best and brightest from around the world to come to the UK to complement the skills we already have."
The Labour Party said that it would go over the government’s plans “very carefully”, while unions are worried that the health and care visa will not account for social care workers.
GMB union, which represents NHS staff, was critical of the fact that the minimum salary threshold excluded cleaners, porters and support staff roles, and excluded care home workers and contractors.
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: "To exclude care workers from the health visa is a clear signal that this government does not appreciate the skill and dedication these roles involve... it is yet another insult from this Tory party to those who have been at the frontline of this crisis."
The prime minister’s spokesman has since said that the government is looking to encourage firms to invest more into training and development of the UK’s domestic workforce to help bolster the care sector, rather than simply rely on foreign workers.
The spokesman said: "Our independent migration advisers have said that immigration is not the sole answer here.”
There will be a reduced fee for the health and care visa, while Patel also confirmed that frontline health workers would not be expected to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge to entitle them to NHS care.
Patel added that there will be a new route to a visa for university graduates to help “retain the brightest and best students to contribute to the UK post-study”, with international students allowed to remain in the country for a minimum of two years once finishing their degree.
The plans also suggest that foreigners with a criminal record who have been in prison for over 12 months may be barred from entry, and foreign nationals currently in the UK who have been sentenced to 12 months or more in prison “must be considered for deportation”.