The Home Office has finally confirmed that NHS doctors and nurses will be excluded from the cap on skilled worker visa, thus allowing more non-EU skilled workers into the UK. Such workers are exempted from the cap on Tier 2 visas, which has been exceeded for six consecutive months and will no longer include foreign doctors and nurses. Around 40% of Tier 2 visas were granted to the NHS staff, the Home Office said.
This will pave way for more visa allocations for those in other skilled professions, such as engineers, IT professionals and teachers.
Home secretary Sajid Javid said: “I recognise the pressures faced by the NHS and other sectors in recent months. Doctors and nurses play a vital role in society and at this time we need more in the UK. That is why I have reviewed our skilled worker visa route.
“This is about finding a solution to increased demand and to support our essential national services.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the move would “send a clear message to nurses and doctors from around the world that the NHS welcomes and values their skills and dedication”, adding: “It’s fantastic that patients will now benefit from the care of thousands more talented staff.”
According to the Financial Times, despite crippling staff shortages across the NHS 2,630 visa applications from doctors outside the European Economic Area (EEA) were refused in a five-month period.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chairman, said: “Overseas doctors make an invaluable contribution to our health service and, at a time when there are thousands of unfilled vacancies within the NHS, it is absurd that the Government should stop experienced and talented healthcare professionals coming to work here and provide much-needed care for patients.”
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive at NHS Providers, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the relaxation would be a “huge relief for trusts up and down the country who have been really struggling to fill their doctors and nurses vacancies”.
“We are delighted with this solution which will enable our NHS organisations to recruit the doctors they urgently need,” he said.
Home secretary Sajid Javid said earlier this month that the Home Office would review the Tier 2 immigration system, as he “[saw] a problem” with the number of doctors being prevented from working in the UK.
The number of Tier 2 visas granted to skilled workers outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland is limited to 20,700 people a year. Migrant workers who have secured a skilled job in the UK can apply for a visa under the Tier 2 rules if they meet salary threshold of £30,000 and have a certificate of sponsorship from the proposed employer.
Meanwhile, MPs have attacked the Home Office for threatening to deport migrant workers for making amendments to their tax records. According to the Guardian, around 1,000 skilled workers including teachers, doctors and lawyers are fighting removal under counter-terrorism measures in paragraph 322(5) of the immigration rules.
SNP MP Alison Thewliss said: “None of those whom I have spoken to have any issues which would cause them to be considered a threat to national security.
“A substantial number of refusals appear to be predicated on nothing more than the individual making an honest mistake – and as far as HMRC are concerned, when the correction has been made, the case is closed.”