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Ultimate Guide to UK Health & Care Worker Visas

The Health and Care Visa allows healthcare professionals and workers from around the world to come to the United Kingdom to work in the health and social care sector. 

The visa gives users a host of benefits, the main ones being fast-tracked entry to the UK, together with reduced visa fees and exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge. It also includes the support of a dedicated team within UKVI in processing visa applications for migrants and their dependent families.

In early 2023, the UK government announced £15 million in funding to help health and care sector employers hire from overseas under the Health and Care worker route.

In this guide, we will provide you with all the information you could ever need about health & care visas. We’ll cover the application process, costs, processing times, eligibility and more.

If you need support with your application, UK Visa Specialists can assist once an applicant has secured an offer of employment, however, we are not able to sponsor candidates.

What is the Health and Care visa?

As mentioned above, the Health and Care visa is for overseas workers with specialist skills to come to the UK to work for licensed employers in eligible roles. As the name suggests, the visa is for specific healthcare professionals including doctors, registered nurses, pharmacists, as well as adult social care workers.

The UK healthcare sector struggles with generating the staff required from within the UK and so the visa is designed to help address this and enhance the skill set of our health and care sector. 

The visa offers an attractive route for foreign nationals to come to the UK for work and to be joined by close family members, with the potential to settle in the UK permanently.

Successful applicants can work in the UK for a period of up to five years and can apply to extend their visa as many time as they like, provided they remain eligible.

The visa will also help immigrants to apply for UK indefinite leave to remain after five years. With ILR status, you are no longer subject to UK immigration control, and you are no longer restricted by visa sponsorship rules, meaning you can change employers and job without the need to apply for additional visas.

Who is eligible for the Health and Care visa?

The list of those who are eligible for a health & care visa in the UK is extensive, but some of the most common immigrants will be qualified doctors, nurses, health professionals and adult social care professionals. 

It is also open to individuals applying under the skilled worker route for entry clearance or leave to remain who and will be taking up a job offer in one of the occupations specified within a prescribed list of Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes.

Before you can determine if your occupation is eligible, you must have its four-digit occupation code. If you already have a job offer, you should ask your employer for the occupation code.

The list of eligible professions is subject to change, and at present includes the following: 

4-digit SOC code

Eligible job roles

1181Health services and public health managers and directors
1242Residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors
2112Biological scientists and biochemists
2113Physical scientists
2211Medical practitioners
2212Psychologists
2213Pharmacists
2214Ophthalmic opticians
2215Dental practitioners
2217Medical radiographers
2218Podiatrists
2219Health professionals not elsewhere classified eg audiologists and occupational health advisers
2221Physiotherapists
2222Occupational therapists
2223Speech and language therapists
2229Therapy professionals not elsewhere classified eg osteopaths and psychotherapists
2231Nurses
2232Midwives
2442Social workers
3111Laboratory technicians
3213Paramedics
3216Dispensing opticians
3217Pharmaceutical technicians
3218Medical and dental technicians
3219Health associate professionals not elsewhere classified
6141Nursing auxiliaries and assistants
6143Dental nurses
6145Care workers & home carers
6146Senior care workers

As well as the role coming under one of the above SOC categories, to qualify for the visa an applicant must also have been offered employment from a licenced sponsor. 

The sponsoring organisation must also either be an NHS body or trust, a medical services provider to the NHS, an organisation providing adult social care, or one of several other medical and social care organisations listed in the official guidance. This could include, for example, someone who is employed or engaged by, or registered with one of the following industry bodies:

  • General Chiropractic Council
  • General Dental Council
  • General Medical Council
  • General Optical Council
  • General Osteopathic Council
  • General Pharmaceutical Council
  • Health and Care Professions Council
  • Northern Ireland Social Care Council
  • Nursing and Midwifery Council
  • Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland
  • Scottish Social Services Council
  • Social Care Wales

If your UK sponsor is a private organisation that provides healthcare services commissioned by the NHS, an explanation, and possibly documentary evidence, as to the contractual arrangements with the NHS will also need to be provided as proof of your eligibility for a Health and Care Worker visa.

What are the Health and Care Worker visa requirements?

In order to qualify for the Health and Care visa applicants have to meet all the relevant criteria under the Skilled Worker visa route, which areas follows:

  • Have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from a UK-licensed sponsor
  • Have the offer of a qualifying job that meets the relevant salary threshold
  • In some cases, to have sufficient personal savings so that you can support yourself on arrival in the UK
  • Have a good working knowledge of the English language
  • Be able to show that you can travel, as well as provide your travel history over the preceding 5 years
  • Have valid tuberculosis test results, if you are from a listed country
  • Be able to provide a criminal record certificate from any country where you have lived for 12 months or more within the last 10 years, if you will be working with vulnerable people as a healthcare professional. 

As a prospective employee, your new employer will be responsible for informing you that you are eligible for the Health and Care Worker visa. This will enable you to correctly complete the visa application form. Your employer will also need to provide a brief explanation in the note field of the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) setting out how you will meet the eligible visa role requirement in your new job. 

Health and Care visa or Skilled Worker visa?

This is a question that we are frequently asked, while the Skilled Worker visa is open to workers in eligible occupations across many areas of the economy, the Health and Care Worker Visa is specifically limited to medical professionals and individuals working in eligible health and care roles.

If the job role you have accepted is not within the health and care sector and doesn’t fit into the criteria we have outlines above, then you will not be eligible for the new Health and Care visa. 

If your job does fall outside the visa requirements, you can then apply under the Skilled Worker visa, provided you meet the visa criteria.

There are many advantages to the Health and Care route over the Skilled Worker visa, including fast-tracked processing of visa applications, lower application fees and an exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge, therefore it is beneficial to apply for the Health and Care Visa should you qualify. 

Health and Care Worker visa minimum salary

Part of the eligibility criteria for the Health and Care Worker visa is your income. This means you must be paid either at least the minimum salary threshold or the appropriate ‘going rate’ for the job you have been offered, whichever is higher. All eligible roles will have ‘going rates’ assigned to them by the Home Office, you can also find out more information by visiting the government website

Typically, you will be required to earn at least £26,200 per year or £10.75 per hour. If the going rate for your role is greater than both of these, you will be required to be paid at least the going rate.

For example, if the salary of the role is £25,000 per year but the going rate for the role is £26,800, you would not meet the salary requirement.

In some cases, you may still be able to apply for a Health and Care visa even if your salary is lower than the required level. The rules allow you to be paid between 70% – 90% of the going rate for your position if you earn at least £20,480 annually and one of the following applies:

  • You have an offer for a job in a shortage occupation
  • You are under 26 and are studying, a recent graduate or in professional training
  • You have a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) PhD relevant to the job you have been offered
  • Your role is a postdoctoral, scientific position

Maintenance requirement

Some applicants will also have to evidence that they can financially support themselves. If you are applying from overseas, you must prove you have had £1,270 in your bank account for at least 28 consecutive days. Day 28 must be within 31 days of the date you applied for your visa.

You will be exempt from this financial requirement if you are applying from within the UK and have held a valid visa for at least 12 months, or, if your sponsor is A-rated, it may submit a letter of support confirming they can cover your costs for the first month you are in the country.

English language requirement

Unless you are exempt, for example, because you are a national of a majority English-speaking country, to prove your knowledge of English you will usually need to show that you have passed an approved English language test with at least CEFR level B1 in reading, writing, speaking and listening, or have an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised by UK NARIC as being equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD.

If you are applying as a doctor, dentist, nurse or midwife, you will be able to rely on the assessment of your professional body as proof of your language ability.

How to apply for the Health and Care Worker visa

To apply for the Health and Care visa you will first need to be assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) by your UK sponsor. This is a unique reference number which you use to apply online on the Home Office website.

You will then need to complete all of the relevant information. Once you have completed all the relevant information, the next stage of the application process is to pay the appropriate fee (see below). You will also be asked to provide various documents in support of your application, it is crucial that you have these available.

On receipt of the application, the Home Office will assess the information and documents and you may be offered to either:

  • book a biometrics appointment if it’s not possible to reuse any biometrics supplied with a previous application, or
  • you will be advised how to enrol biometrics using an ID app.

Health and Care Worker visa supporting documents

As with any UK visa application, you will need to provide various documents and information, these include:

  • A current, valid passport or travel document to prove you can travel
  • Any expired passports or travel documents to show your travel history
  • Your Certificate of Sponsorship (reference number) from your employer
  • Your employer’s name and sponsor licence reference number
  • Job details including job title, SOC code and salary
  • A statement or letter from your bank or building society showing you have enough personal savings unless your CoS shows your A-rated sponsor can support you instead
  • Proof of your knowledge of English
  • Your tuberculosis test results if you are from a listed country
  • A criminal record certificate, unless your role is exempt
  • If you are applying with dependants, proof of your relationship such as your marriage certificate for your spouse and birth certificates for your children 

Can my partner or dependants join me in the UK?

If you are coming to the UK with a Health and Care visa then you will be eligible to bring your immediate family members to the UK with you. This includes your spouse or partner, and any dependent children.

If you are already in the UK and would like your dependents to join you, your UK sponsor will need to provide written confirmation that your family member is eligible to do so based on your occupation. This should be in the form of a letter or email from the sponsor, setting out the organisation for which you work, and, if not an NHS body, how the organisation qualifies. 

What are the Health and Care Worker visa costs?

The Health and Care visa comes with a reduced visa application fee compared to that paid by other skilled workers.

The fees apply to applicants and dependents and are the same for leave to enter the UK or to remain in the UK, to those who qualify under this visa.

Fees for Health and Care Worker visa applications made outside the UK

Skilled Worker – Health and Care Visa – where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued for three years or less – main applicant and dependants£284
Skilled Worker – Health and Care Visa – where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued for over three years – main applicant and dependants£551
Skilled Worker – Shortage Occupation – Health and Care Visa – where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued for three years or less – main applicant and dependants£284
Skilled Worker – Shortage Occupation – Health and Care Visa – where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued for over three years – main applicant and dependants£551

 

Fees for Health and Care visa applications made within the UK

Skilled Worker – Health and Care Worker Visa – where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued for three years or less – main applicant and dependants£284
Skilled Worker – Health and Care Visa – where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued for over three years -main applicant and dependants£551
Skilled Worker – Shortage Occupation – Health and Care Visa – where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued for three years or less – main applicant and dependants£284
Skilled Worker – Shortage Occupation – Health and Care Visa – where a certificate of sponsorship has been issued for over three years – main applicant and dependants£551

 

The reduced visa fees also apply to dependents. Applicants and dependants who are eligible to apply under this visa are exempt from having to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.

Frontline workers in the health and social care sector who are not eligible for the new Health and Care Visa will pay the Immigration Health Surcharge but should benefit from a reimbursement scheme. This is in recognition of the contribution of those who have come to the UK to work during the pandemic.

What are the Health and Care visa processing times?

You can apply for your visa up to 3 months before the day you are due to start work in the UK. This date is listed on your Certificate of Sponsorship. As part of your application, you’ll need to prove your identity and provide all of the relevant documents.

You may need to allow extra time if you need an appointment to do this. You’ll find out if you need one when you start your application.

Once you’ve applied online, proved your identity and provided your documents, you’ll usually get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks. You may be able to pay to get a faster decision. How you do this depends on whether you’re outside the UK or inside the UK.

Taking on additional work or a second job

Under the latest guidance, Health and Care Worker visa holders can take on a second, or additional, work or employment while in the UK, provided they continue to work in their sponsored role for their sponsor, but may in some circumstances have to apply to update their visa to account for this change in status.

Health and Care Workers will not need to update their visa if:

  • Their additional job also qualifies under the Health and Care Worker route – in which case, there are no restrictions on the hours they can work in this role.
  • Their additional job is on the Shortage Occupation List – in which case, they can work up to 20 hours a week without having to update their visa.
  • Their additional job is an unpaid, voluntary role. 

As such, Health and Care Workers will need to apply to the Home Office to update their visa if the additional role is not a Health and Care Worker or Shortage Occupation List role, or if they intend to work more than 20 hours a week in an additional role which is on the Shortage Occupation List.

The worker will need to be assigned a new Certificate of Sponsorship from their second employer and provide supplementary information to the Home Office detailing the reasons why they want to change their current working status and permission.

Changing jobs with a Health and Care visa

Health and Care workers have to notify the Home Office when they change jobs or employer by applying to update their visa. Specifically, you have to update your visa if:

  • You are starting a new job with a new employer
  • You are starting a new job which has a different occupation code to what is on your Certificate of Sponsorship and you are not working as part of a graduate training programme
  • You will no longer be working in a shortage occupation role – this refers to you leaving a job which is on the shortage list, and starting a job which is not on the list. It does not refer to when a role is taken on the shortage list by the government. 

Can you extend your Health and Care Visa?

Health and Care visas are granted for up to five years. To remain in the UK lawfully, you may need to apply to extend your visa before it expires.

You can apply for an extension provided you continue to be eligible under the visa requirements. This means that you continue to be employed by the same sponsor that issued your current Certificate of Sponsorship, that you are still employed in the same role with the same occupation code as per your previous visa application, and that you continue to satisfy the salary threshold requirement.

After 5 years in the UK, rather than applying to extend your status, you may wish to apply to settle under Indefinite Leave to Remain.

If your family are with you in the UK with dependant visas, they too will need to apply for an extension and show they continue to be eligible as dependants, or apply for ILR, before their visa expires.

Applying for ILR with a Health and Care visa

Health and Care workers who have lived in the UK for five years under the visa, or in combination with other permitted work visa categories, can become eligible to apply for ILR. 

You will be able to include time spent with lawful status under any combination of the following visas:

  • Any Tier 1 visa – except Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
  • Skilled Worker or Tier 2 (General)
  • Health and Care
  • Scale-up Worker
  • T2 Minister of Religion or Tier 2 (Minister of Religion)
  • International Sportsperson, T2 Sportsperson or Tier 2 (Sportsperson)
  • Innovator
  • Global Talent
  • Representative of an Overseas Business

Your qualifying period begins on the date your initial application for entry clearance or leave to remain was approved. You can apply for ILR 28 days before the 5-year qualifying period expires.

Health and Care workers use the application form SET (O) to apply for ILR. You will need to show that you meet the UK ILR requirements, which include:

  • Living and working in the UK for a minimum of five years immediately preceding the date of your application
  • Spending no more than 180 days outside the UK in any consecutive 12-month period during the qualifying five-year period of UK residence
  • Continuing to be sponsored by your employer
  • Continuing to meet the minimum salary threshold
  • Passing the Life in the UK test
  • Meeting the English language requirement
  • Not failing under the general grounds for refusal

Do you have a question about the Health and Care Visa?

If you have any questions in regards to your health & care worker visa or whether you are eligible, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. 

One of our immigration lawyers will be able to answer any questions you might have and provide you with all the information you need.

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