New Laws Tackling UK Care Worker Visa Abuse Take Effect

| March 13, 2024
New Laws to Tackle Care Worker Visa Abuse Takes Effect

The British government has enforced new laws to tackle care worker visa abuse and drastically cut net migration. 

Starting 11 March 2024, care workers can no longer bring their families to the United Kingdom (UK).

Additionally, care providers in England must register with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to sponsor migrants coming to the UK. 

The CQC oversees and regulates all health and social care services in England. 

It ensures the quality and safety of care provided in hospitals, dentists, ambulances, care homes, and even people’s homes. 

The commission also helps crack down and prevent worker exploitation and abuse within the sector.

In a news release, UK Home Secretary James Cleverly said it is “neither right nor fair” to allow care worker visa abuse to continue.

The government revealed that care workers have been offered visas under false pretenses for jobs that “simply don’t exist.”

They are also “paid far below the minimum wage required for their work, exploiting them while undercutting British workers.” 

“Care workers make an incredible contribution to our society, taking care of our loved ones in times of need,” Cleverly said. 

He added, “But we cannot justify inaction in the face of clear abuse, manipulation of our immigration system, and unsustainable migration numbers.”

The new laws protect British workers while ensuring that “the very best international talent can work and study” in the UK. 

The changes to the care worker visa route were announced in December 2023. They are part of a robust plan to drastically reduce net migration by 300,000.

Record number of health and care visas issued in 2023

For the year ending December 2023, the UK granted 616,317 visas to overseas workers and their dependants.

Of that number, 337,240 are for work visa applicants. Health and care work visas account for almost half of it at 146,477.

The number almost doubled from the previous year, representing a 91 percent increase.

Over 60 percent of the 146,477 health and care work visas were for “care workers and home carers.”

Of the 279,131 total visas issued to dependants of overseas workers, 203,452 were for families of health and care workers.

This brings the total number of health and care work visas and their dependant visas to 349,929. 

It records a significant increase, compared to 63,291 in 2021 and 157,636 in 2022.

Experts at the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford explained that the surge was due to serious staff shortages in the health and care sector.

After the UK left the European Union (EU), employers had to adjust their hiring practices due to the termination of freedom of movement.

Transitioning to implement the new care worker visa rules

Since announcing the new rules, the government published further information on transitioning to and implementing the new care worker visa rules.

For starters, care and senior care workers already in the UK can remain with their dependants. 

They can do so when extending, changing employers within their Standard Occupational Classification (SOC), and settling.​

Care workers already in the UK who have not yet brought dependants before the rule change will also be allowed to bring them on their sponsorship. 

Individuals already in the UK on any other route who plan to switch to the care or senior care worker visa after 11 March cannot stay with or bring their families to the UK. 

This applies whether or not the individual is already on a visa route that permits bringing dependants into the country. 

On the other hand, care providers who sponsor workers in non-regulated activities that don’t require CQC registration before the rule change can continue to sponsor them.

The care workers under these care providers will also be allowed to extend their visas under those terms.

However, care providers can no longer hire new workers for non-regulated activities.

Growing the British social care workforce

The British government made it clear that “immigration is not the long-term answer to social care needs, and care providers should hire more British workers.”

Helen Whately, Minister for Social Care, recognized overseas care workers’ “invaluable contribution caring for our loved ones.”

“Our reforms will grow the domestic workforce and build on our success over the last year that saw more people working in social care, fewer vacancies, and lower staff turnover,” said Whately.

She added, “These rules provide a more ethical and sustainable approach.”

The Department for Health and Social Care is leading a program to reform, grow, and support the local social care workforce.

This includes the first-ever national career path for care workers and a new accredited care qualification for better training, clearer career paths, and improved job prospects.

More legal migration policies will come into force next month and throughout 2024. 

On 4 April, the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) will be abolished and replaced with a new Immigration Salary List (ISL). 

This follows advice from the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). The committee ended its initial review of the SOL and recommended 21 jobs for the new ISL.

The UK government stressed that jobs in the ISL should be skilled roles that are in shortage, and that no sector should rely on immigration. 

“Inclusion on the list must not serve to reduce pay and undermine the recruitment of British workers,” stated the news release.  

Additionally, from 4 April, the government will raise the minimum salary required for skilled workers in the UK from £26,200 to £38,700. 

Health and care workers and jobs on the national pay scale, such as teachers, will be exempted from the increase.

The minimum income requirement for family-related visas will also rise from £18,600 to £29,000 on 11 April.

By early 2025, this will be increased to £38,700, helping to ensure dependants brought to the UK are supported financially. 

Since 1 January, select student visa holders have been banned from bringing dependents to the UK. They are also not allowed to switch to work visas before they have finished their courses.

The UK government had also implemented a hike in immigration health surcharge in February 2024.