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International Recruitment

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) are currently in the middle of a commission investigating the impact of the ending of freedom of movement on the adult social care sector. 

In December 2021, they provided an update report that focused on their preliminary findings. In this report, the Committee made a key formal recommendation to the Government. Given the severe and increasing difficulties the social care sector is facing in terms of both recruitment and retention, the MAC felt that they had sufficient evidence to recommend that care worker jobs were immediately made eligible for the Health and Care Visa and placed on the Shortage Occupation List.

In April 2022, the MAC published their independent review of adult social care, and the impact the ending freedom of movement has had on the sector. Amongst the Committee’s recommendations was for the Government to keep care workers on the SOL until the next SOL review is completed, when they will make a further recommendation.

On 20th September 2022, a letter sent from the Minister for Safe and Legal Migration, Kevin Foster MP, to the MAC was published. This letter advised that the inclusion of care workers on the shortage occupation list will not automatically expire after 12 months. Please see below for the full statement from the letter:

The Government recalls the MAC’s recommendation for the inclusion of care workers in the route not to expire automatically after 12 months and recognises the challenges faced by the care sector in terms of increased demand for adult social services, increasing vacancies and issues with staff retention. The MAC has said it will make a further recommendation about the position of care workers on the SOL as part of this commission, which the Government will consider when the MAC reports. We do not intend to make any changes to the provisions for care workers before this point (with the Immigration Rules themselves having no such expiration date in them), however, the Government reserves the right to review the position in response to any emerging issues.

This page contains information about the background to the points-based immigration system and useful resources about the changes to international recruitment of care workers in the UK.

Points-Based Immigration system

On 1 January 2021, the UK introduced a points-based immigration system. Under this new system, most non-UK resident workers must apply for a visa to come to the UK to work. The primary route is through the skilled worker route which features two key visas. The first is the new Skilled Worker visa. This visa has replaced the Tier 2 (General) visa.  The second type of visa on the skilled worker route is the Health and Care Worker visa. The Health and Care Worker visa allows medical professionals to come to or stay in the UK to do an eligible job with the NHS, an NHS supplier or in adult social care.

The Skilled Worker route has a shortage occupation list. This list features roles deemed by the UK Government to be in short supply within the UK resident labour market. Roles which feature on the Shortage Occupation List give individuals an advantage in obtaining a Skilled Worker visa. If a role is on the shortage occupation list and eligible for the Health and Care visa, the worker can benefit from a fast-tracked, reduced-fee visa. Both visas on the skilled worker route have associated costs payable by the applicant.

As an employer there are some key things that you will need to do to be able to hire workers from the shortage occupation list. They are:  

  • Become a licensed Sponsor
  • Check that your job is suitable
  • Sponsor a worker
  • Pay the regular fees

Latest Resources

Recruiting Care Workers and Home Care Workers from the Shortage Occupation List

National Care Forum Briefing

From 15 February 2022, care workers and home carers will be recognised on the Skilled Worker shortage occupation list. They will also become eligible to apply for the Health and Care Worker visa sub-category of the route. As the process of recruiting an overseas Front line Care Worker will not be familiar to many members, we have prepared a briefing to support you in preparation for the introduction date. The briefing provides information about how employers can recruit using the shortage occupation list and explains how the process works, what employers have to do, how much it costs and how long it will take.

LGA and ADASS Bitesize Guide

The LGA and ADASS have produced a bitesize guide to help employers explore and maximise the opportunities that overseas recruitment offers. The guide features information about the benefits, considerations and process of overseas recruitment. There are also many useful case studies.

New – Becoming a Visa sponsor helpsheet for adult social care providers

The Department of Health and Social Care has produced a highly informative help sheet designed specifically for adult social care providers interested in becoming visa sponsors. This resource is packed with vital information and guidance, covering all aspects of the sponsor registration process, from start to finish. It offers guidance on what you need to know before you begin, instructions on completing the online application, advice on the required supporting documents, and information on the final steps and key contacts.

Home Office, DHSC and Skills for Care Recruiting Overseas Care Workers Webinar

The Home Office, DHSC and Skills for Care have hosted a series of webinars entitled – Social Care: Recruiting an overseas care worker under the Points Based System. These webinars provided an overview of the points-based immigration system for the social care sector. They also featured sections on what the recent announcement means for international recruitment, how to ensure ethical international recruitment and examples of best practice from the social care sector.

The slides used during the 4 February 2022 event can be accessed here.

Skills for Care International Recruitment Resources

Skills for Care have a variety of resources on their website around the topic of international recruitment. The page features guidance from the Home Office and DHSC and it also features current examples of best practice from employers across a variety of settings.

Also included on this page are recordings from the virtual events held around the topic of international recruitment, including:

  • Home Office – Social care: points-based immigration
  • UK Visas & Immigration – How to apply for a sponsor licence
  • International recruitment virtual event

Rapid Review of International Recruitment of Healthcare Workers

The NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce has published a rapid review of the evidence on ethical international recruitment of healthcare workers. The rapid review aimed to find evidence on threats to the ethical international recruitment of healthcare workers. The review describes some of the barriers and facilitators to ethical international recruitment. An important conclusion from the review is that international recruitment was a symptom, not a cause, of challenges to the health systems in sending countries.

MAC Report - April 2022

On 27th April 2022, the MAC published a report detailing their independent review of adult social care, and the impact the ending freedom of movement has had on the sector.

The report reiterates the issues of underfunding of the social care sector and highlights how it continues to exacerbate challenges including increased demand for care, high vacancy and turnover rates and low pay and little career progression compared to competing occupations. Funding and immigration policy were identified as possible solutions to alleviate these issues, with funding highlighted as a long-term solution, whist immigration policy was seen to be able to alleviate some of these issues in the short term. Although the report acknowledges that funding is the root cause of many of the issues in social care, the report focuses on workforce issues and immigration policy, not the issues of social care provision and funding.

Chapter 1 – describes the social care sector and workforce in the UK and the role migrants play in it.

Chapter 2 – outlines issues relating to pay and terms and conditions in social care.

Chapter 3 – covers immigration policy for the social care sector, the MAC’s interim recommendation in its annual report and further recommendations for the longer term.

Chapter 4 – provides an overview of the MAC’s recommendations.