On Friday, the Conservative party released plans to introduce a new NHS visa specifically for doctors, nurses and other health professionals. The stated intention is to roll this new category out before the UK’s new immigration system is due to be introduced in January 2021.
The new scheme is said to involve a reduction in the visa application fees from £928 to £464, which appears to be a sizeable one. However, the Shortage Occupation visa fees for 5 years are currently set at £928 and £464 for up to 3 years, raising the question of how carefully the proposed new fees had been thought through.
Although a ‘reduction’ has been mooted in the application fees, the Home Office have not mentioned a reduction in the Immigration Health Surcharge (£400 per year) or the Immigration Skills Charge £364 or £1,000 per year). Whilst the intention of this new visa scheme is to ensure that lower paid professionals (for example nurses) are not required to pay a large lump sum, the fees are still relatively high and similar to the Shortage Occupation fee structure.
The new scheme also mentions that the processing time will be shortened and that decisions will be made in two weeks. However, potential NHS employees applying under the existing procedures are able to pay a fee to expedite their applications and receive a decision in either 5 working days or 24 hours.
Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, stated that this new scheme will result in “the best of both worlds — attracting talent from around the world so our NHS continues to provide brilliant service while ensuring it isn’t put under strain by opening Britain’s borders to the entire world”.
Although the new visa may be criticised for bringing very little change to the existing provisions for non-EEA doctors and nurses, it is good to see that the Tories have identified and are prioritising the need to continue the flow of recruitment in the NHS sector. This area is a vital part of the overall immigration debate and one that should be at the forefront of the government’s planning, given the heavy reliance the NHS places on this type of workforce.
The biggest game-changer for this sector occurred in June 2018 when the Home Office removed NHS staff from the Tier 2 (General) visa quota system. This was done to avoid non-EEA health professionals being refused entry to the UK at the expense of other higher level professionals who were attaining higher point scores and using up the visa quota – to the detriment of non-EEA doctors and nurses.
Gherson have extensive experience in all aspects of UK immigration regulations relating to employment and the points based system (Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 4 and Tier 5). If you would like any further information or have any queries with respect to your own circumstances, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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.
Consultant and trainee solicitor in our Corporate Team