In a change of policy which will be welcomed across the NHS, it has been reported that Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, is due to announce a relaxation to the current visa restrictions stopping foreign doctors and nurses from working in the UK.
The Home Secretary is also expected to announce an expansion of the Tier 2 scheme, enabling thousands more highly-skilled migrants to come to work in the UK. This is expected to allow an additional 8,000 skilled non-EEA migrants to secure employment every year in areas such as teaching, engineering and IT.
As we have reported on in previous blogs, the NHS has been experiencing acute problems with recruiting skilled non-EEA medical staff, included GPs, psychiatrists and cancer specialists. The Home Secretary is keenly aware of these current problems and appears to be listening to representatives of the NHS and related organisations.
It has been widely reported that the Home Secretary does not appear to endorse unconditionally the Prime Minister’s restrictive approach to immigration issues, and that he has signalled a willingness to review certain Home Office policies. The Tier 2 visa scheme is one such policy currently under the Home Secretary’s review. The restrictions on the annual number of Tier 2 visas were implemented by Theresa May when she herself was Home Secretary, and as Prime Minister, she blocked attempts to ease these restrictions by Mr Javid’s predecessor, Amber Rudd. Pressure from the cabinet (as well as continued lobbying by business groups) has now led to the Prime Minister to accept a relaxation of the cap on Tier 2 visas which could see an increase in the number available by 40%. Reports indicate that this relaxation would not be indefinite, however, and that it would have a finite life-span.
The Home Secretary has also indicated that a full review will be conducted of the professions which qualify for visas to the UK. This could mean an increase in the numbers of teachers and GPs allowed to work here. Any move to increase the number of visas available to medical staff in particular would be welcomed, as this group has been especially prejudiced by the current restrictions. A recent Freedom of Information disclosure suggested that well over 2,000 applications for doctors had been refused between December 2017 and April 2018. The disclosure also confirmed that of 103 visa applications made by pharmacists, not one had been granted.
With respect to the above recent announcements from the Home Office, the Chairman of Migration Watch, Lord Green of Deddington, has been quoted as saying that this “is the first time that immigration policy has been significantly softened since Mrs May became Home Secretary in 2010”. The continued problems due to existing visa restrictions faced by the NHS, for example, may be the inevitable result of the Prime Minister’s continued adherence to her much-reported target of reducing net migration to the UK to “the tens of thousands”. This general policy is increasingly coming under attack from MPs, the cabinet and business groups, however, and the Home Secretary, it appears, is listening.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.