Skip to main content
Global HR Lawyers

New Immigration Rules place greater restrictions on care workers

22 February 2024

From 11 March 2024 care providers in England cannot sponsor new care workers under the Skilled Worker route unless they are registered with the Care Quality Commission. From the same date, newly sponsored carers can no longer bring their family members to the UK.

The changes were published on 19 February 2024 in Statement of changes to the Immigration Rules: HC 556.

These measures implement the first part of the government’s ‘five-point plan’ to reduce net migration. For more information, read our previous articles, What's happening in UK immigration law in 2024? and the timeline for immigration reforms.

English care providers must be registered with the Care Quality Commission

From 11 March 2024, sponsor licence holders in the care sector in England must be registered with the CQC if they carry out regulated activities. This will significantly limit the ability of care home businesses to sponsor care workers or senior care workers (occupation codes 6145 and 6146). The explanatory memorandum to the new Rules states this is in response to ‘high levels of non-compliance and worker exploitation and abuse, as well as unsustainable levels of demand’.

The restrictions are set out as descriptions to the standard occupational classification (SOC) codes 6145 and 6146 in Appendix Skilled Occupations and Appendix Shortage Occupation List.

The new requirement applies to England only, it does not affect the eligibility of jobs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Care providers such as care homes in England must be registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) if they are undertaking a regulated activity.

Existing care providers sponsoring workers in exclusively non-regulated activities are not required to register with the CQC and some may be exempt from the requirement to register. They may continue to sponsor these workers and support applications to extend their permission to stay in the UK. They cannot sponsor new care workers without registering with the CQC.

Care providers who are not currently registered with the CQC, who rely on a recruitment talent pool from overseas, may wish to consider changing their business model to apply for registration. It may be appropriate to obtain professional advice and support with the CQC registration process, which is lengthy and time-consuming.

Sponsors in the care sector are at an increased risk of sponsor compliance action

In an impact estimate published in December 2023, the Home Office reviewed visa application data for carers and senior carers between January and June 2023 by cross-checking the sponsoring organisation’s name against the published register of CQC-regulated providers. The assessment identified that 22% of care and senior care workers were sponsored by employers who were not listed on the CQC register.

The Home Office is not expecting a surge in CQC registrations given that care providers undertaking regulated activities in England should already be registered. However, because sponsor compliance includes complying with UK laws, it would seem likely that the Home Office may seek to verify that non-CQC-registered sponsors of carers are not required to be.

More generally, as abuse of the sponsorship regime and sponsored workers has been identified in the care sector, sponsors can expect to continue to receive heightened scrutiny from the Home Office’s sponsor compliance team, including compliance audits and sponsor compliance action.

Newly-sponsored carers will be banned from bringing family members to the UK

Care workers in SOC codes 6145 or 6146 who submit a Skilled Worker visa application on or after 11 March 2024 will be ineligible to be accompanied by their partner and children (aged under 18 at the time they make their first application as a dependant).

Care workers who are already sponsored, or who make their application before 11 March 2024 can:

  • Continue in their sponsored role and continue to reside in their UK;
  • Have any eligible dependant family members accompany or join them in the UK;
  • Apply to extend their permission with their existing sponsor even if their existing sponsor does not register with the CQC; and
  • Apply to settle in the UK whilst sponsored with their existing sponsor even if their existing sponsor does not register with the CQC.

Care workers who are already sponsored, or who make their application before 11 March 2024 cannot:

  • Change employer without their new sponsor being registered the CQC, but if they do change employer, their dependent family members can continue to accompany them or join them in the UK.

Are the new rules fit for purpose?

The new sponsorship rules are designed to better protect care workers in England by ensuring they are working for an employer under the supervision of the independent regulator of health and social care in England.

That said, the new rules have the potential to trap some sponsored care workers in existing employment with non-CQC registered sponsors, unless sponsorship is readily available with a CQC-registered employer.

Regarding the prohibition on accompanying dependants, the Home Secretary has stated the Government anticipates that workers without family commitments will still be willing to put themselves forward following the change coming into effect. In reality however, workers with families are still likely also to put themselves forward where they feel the opportunity is worth the separation.

Concerns have already been raised by unions and others that the policy may have significant detriments. The rates of pay in the care sector are low, and partners accompanying a care worker are able to assist with raising living standards by supplementing household income. Some partners also work in the care sector, assisting to alleviate skills shortages. Accompanying family members also provide emotional support to workers who have been identified as potentially vulnerable.

The Home Office should consider making an early review of the policy, including factors such as the following:

  • Whether the policy exacerbates skills shortages in the care sector, either through reducing the number of workers willing to relocate to the UK, increasing the cost to care providers of needing to sponsor workers currently recruited as partner dependants, or both;
  • Whether the policy has the effect of separating families, and what the consequences of this are;
  • Whether carers who are not accompanied by family members are at increased risk of exploitation due to isolation and increased financial pressure; and
  • Whether there are significant impacts on carers’ mental health and wellbeing due to isolation or family separation.

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

Related items


Today’s workforce is increasingly international, with companies competing for talent on a global scale.

Back To Top