Care Workers to be recognised on the Skilled Worker shortage occupation list
A number of care worker related roles are to become eligible to apply for the new Health and Care Worker visa from 15th February. These immigration changes are expected to have a positive impact on employers in the care sector, as they will now be able to apply for a Sponsor Licence to sponsor care workers where they have previously been unable to do so.
The Home Office has stated that these arrangements will be in place for an initial 12-month period. A review of their success and whether there is a continued need for them has been scheduled for late 2022. Whilst initially temporary, it is anticipated that the new rules will provide relief given the current workforce shortages.
Overview of the changes and background
These changes have been implemented following the Migration Advisory Committee’s recommended that the government make Care Workers and Home Carers immediately eligible for the Health and Care Worker Visa (which forms part of the Skilled Worker route), and include these occupations on the shortage occupation list (SOL).
The Government’s “Statement of Changes” published on 24th January 2022 confirmed that the recommendations will be applied from 15th February and seek to help alleviate the current pressures on the health and social care sector as a result of COVID-19.
What sort of roles are covered?
- The Skilled Worker route is for applicants with a specific job offer from a Home Office approved sponsoring employer (under the Skilled Worker Route).
- A requirement of the Skilled Worker route is that the job offer must be one which involves duties and responsibilities involving skills equivalent to RQF level 3. However in this instance, applicants do not need to hold a formal qualification, as it is the skill level of the job they will be doing which is important. These changes effectively remove the skills threshold for care workers, which allows them to qualify for the route.
- From 15 February, the following roles will be added to the list of Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes which qualify for a Health and Care Worker visa:
- 6145 Care workers and home carers
- Related eligible job titles including:
- Care assistant
- Care worker
- Home care assistant
- Home carer
- Support worker (nursing home).
By adding these roles to the SOL, applicants will benefit from lower salary requirements and reduced visa application fees compared to other Skilled Workers.
Employers (sponsors) who wish to offer such jobs must offer applicants a salary at least equal to whichever is the highest of:
- £20,480 per year
- £10.10 per hour
This will allow employers in the sector to bring in workers on a lower salary than the general salary threshold under the Skilled Worker route, which is currently £25,600 per year.
When assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship to an applicant, the sponsor will need to include an explanation of how the individual meets the Health and Care visa eligibility requirements.
The sponsor must also tell the applicant they are being sponsored under the Health and Care visa, to ensure the correct immigration application form is completed. This is because Health and Care visa applicants and their dependants benefit from reduced visa application fees, are not required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge and are eligible for expedited visa processing.
Can this apply to private households?
Although “home carers” are included in the same occupation code, these changes are not designed to enable home carers to be sponsored as Skilled Workers, unless they are working for an organisation which is able to meet the sponsorship requirements.
Private households or individuals cannot sponsor Skilled Workers, unless they are sole traders sponsoring someone to work for their business.
It is important to note that sponsorship from a licenced employer under the Skilled Worker Route remains an essential requirement for care workers applying for such a visa under the amended rules.
Whilst the Sponsor Licence application can be relatively straightforward, employer’s must remember that there are strict sponsor licence duties and record keeping requirements which must be managed. Falling foul of these provisions can mean that the licence is revoked and the business automatically prevented from re-apply in the near future, so it’s key to ensure that your business is ready and able to meet the provisions, before submitting a Sponsor Licence application.
So what do I do next?
1. Contact us about becoming a Sponsor Licence holder:
- We’ll need to assess the business against the eligibility criteria
- Consider and prepare to appoint the sponsor management roles
- Prepare for the suitability checks
- Apply for the licence online and pay the appropriate fee – for small or charitable organisations the fee is £536; or £1,476 for medium or large sponsors.
Most applications are dealt with by the Home Office in less than 8 weeks.
Fast track services within 10 days can be available for an additional fee of £500 (however not all applications are accepted for fast track).
2. Once the Sponsor Licence is in place, you can then start to consider assigning Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to each foreign worker you wish to employ:
- This an electronic record, not a physical certificate
- You’ll need to pay a fee when you assign a certificate – £199 per certificate
- The business will also need to pay the Immigration Skills Charge for the full length of the visa
Small or charitable sponsors
Medium or large sponsors
First 12 months
Each additional 6 months
3. The worker then applies:
- Once the CoS is assigned to the worker, they must use it to apply for their Health and Care Worker visa within 3 months
- An applicant cannot apply more than 3 months before the start date of the job listed in the certificate
- Each applicant will need to meet the individual requirements for:
- Financial maintenance (cash funds of £1,270 available)
- Provide a criminal record certificate
- Demonstrate English language ability to at least level B1 of CEFR
- Tuberculosis test if the applicant is from a country where the test is required
- Criminal record certificate – required for certain roles
- Pay the fee – £232 for 3 years or less, or £464 for 3 years+. This fee is reduced for certain nationalities, but not for any dependants.
- Applicants are exempt from paying the healthcare surcharge
Specialist employment law advice
If your business is interested in becoming a sponsor, or has any queries about the new Health and Care Worker visa, then our Business Immigration team can assist you. Please get in touch by calling 0117 906 9400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, please complete our contact form.