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New Health and Care visa to launch from 4 August 2020

22 July 2020

The Home Office has released the first guidance on the a new ‘Health and Care Visa’ for doctors, nurses and allied health professionals including individuals working in the social care sector. The Health and Care Visa will be available from 4 August 2020 and will fall under the Tier 2 (General) category.

Eligibility

To be eligible for this new visa an applicant must:

  • Be applying for a Tier 2 (General) visa
  • Be filling a job that falls within a specified list of Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes; and
  • Be employed by the NHS, NHS commissioned service providers or social care providers that are listed in the Home Office’s Tier 2 guidance

 The exhaustive list of SOC codes that will be eligible for the new visa is:

  • 2112 – Biological scientists and biochemists
  • 2113 – Physical Scientists
  • 2211 – Medical Practitioners
  • 2212 – Psychologists
  • 2213 – Pharmacists
  • 2214 – Ophthalmic Opticians
  • 2215 – Dental practitioners
  • 2217 – Medical Radiographers
  • 2218 – Podiatrists
  • 2219 – Health Professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 2221 – Physiotherapists
  • 2222 – Occupational Therapists
  • 2223 – Speech and Language Therapists
  • 2229 – Therapy professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 2231 – Nurses
  • 2232 – Midwives
  • 2442 – Social Workers
  • 3213 – Paramedics

The occupation list will be reviewed and most likely expanded under the new Skilled Worker route from 1 January 2021. This is because occupations at level 3 or above on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (A-level equivalent) will be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa, whereas only level 6 (bachelor degree equivalent) occupations are eligible under Tier 2.

The Home Office has confirmed in a press release that it intends to exclude care workers from the scope of the visa, both under the current system and the new one.

It will be important for sponsors to include an explanation on why the applicant is eligible for the Health and Care Visa on their Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). If the explanation is not included on the CoS, then the application could be rejected as insufficient fees would be paid.

IHS exemption and fee reduction for Health and Care Visa applicants and dependants

As announced by the government on 21 May 2020, Health and Care Visa applicants and their dependent family members will be exempt for paying the Immigration Health Surcharge.

In addition, the applicants and their dependants will be entitled to a reduced government application fee. At the time of launch, the fees will be as set out in the table below for each applicant/dependant. These will be the same regardless of whether the application is made within the UK or abroad.

Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) length

Fee

Three years or less (shortage)

£232

Three years or less (non-shortage)

£232

More than three years (shortage)

£464

More than three years (non-shortage)

£464

The fees may be subject to change in the future and do not include the biometric enrolment fee of £19.20 per person or fees charged by the Home Office’s commercial partners.

If an employee who would qualify for a Health and Care visa is already in the UK under Tier 2 and has dependants who are joining them from abroad, then the dependants can benefit from the reduced application fee and exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge. To benefit from the fee reductions the sponsor will need to provide a letter or email confirming information about the main applicant that would normally need to be provided in a CoS for the Health and Care visa. If the sponsor is not an NHS body, the letter or email must also outline how the sponsor is a qualifying organisation for the visa.

Fast-tracked visa processing

The Home Office plans to prioritise these applications and have said that they aim to process all applications within three weeks of the biometric enrolment appointment. This is the same timeline for processing an entry clearance application when the standard service is used, though is much faster than applications made in the UK which can take up to eight weeks to process.

IHS reimbursement for other health and social care workers

Separately, since 31 March 2020, individuals who are working in health and social care have been exempted from paying the Immigration Health Surcharge on a permanent basis. Workers who have paid the Immigration Health Surcharge on or after 31 March 2020 will have this reimbursed. This is the case even if the person does not qualify for the Health and Care Visa.

It is not clear whether the reimbursement will available for the worker or will also cover their dependants, however further information will be published on the Immigration Health Surcharge page of GOV.UK. The Home Office has been proactively contacting Tier 2 workers and will set up an operational mechanism in conjunction with the Department of Health and Social Care to reimburse individuals who are outside the scope of the Health and Care visa. These arrangements are expected to start from 1 October 2020 and the reimbursements will be made in six-monthly tranches. Individuals who believe they are due to be reimbursed can email UKVINHSTeam@homeoffice.gov.uk.

If you have any queries about these developments, please contact a member of our immigration team.    

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