New visa rules for care workers come into force

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Posted on 19 Mar 2024

New visa rules for care workers come into force

On 11 March 2024, new rules came into force preventing care workers from bringing family members to join them in the UK, and requiring care home sponsors to be registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The changes are part of the Home Secretary’s “five-point plan”, announced in December 2023, to bring down net legal migration from what the government calls “unsustainable levels”. Last year the Home Office approved 100,000 Skilled Worker visa applications submitted by care workers and 120,000 by their dependants.

The new rules mean that spouses and children of Skilled Worker visa applicants sponsored as care workers or senior care workers (under Occupation Codes 6145 and 6146) are no longer able to apply for Dependant Partner and Child visas. The change does not impact family members of Skilled Workers sponsored for other care-related roles such as nurses (Occupation Code 2231).

At the same time, care home sponsor licence holders now need to be registered with the CQC to be able to sponsor care workers, as part of the government’s attempt to crack down on exploitation and abuse. This new rule applies to existing sponsors and new applicants and is now reflected on the sponsor management system (the portal used by sponsor licence holders), which includes a requirement for the sponsor to confirm they are CQC-registered before being able to assign a certificate of sponsorship to a care worker.

It remains to be seen what impact these changes will have. The requirement for sponsors to register with the CQC should help reduce fraudulent applications; whereas genuine care providers are likely to already be registered with the CQC or other regulator so this should not be too onerous a requirement. There remains an estimated shortage of 152,000 care workers across England, a number which is likely to increase as the population ages, and it is clear that migration is required to at least partly fill this gap. Preventing family members from joining care workers in the UK may well bring down net migration but is also likely to deter genuine and highly-qualified staff from entering the workforce at a time when they are desperately needed.

On 14 March 2024, the government laid a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules before Parliament, proposing major changes to the Skilled Worker visa category which are expected to come into force on 4 April 2024. We will publish an update on these changes in due course.

Given the major changes that are currently being implemented to UK immigration law, it’s never been more important to keep up to date and ensure compliance with the ever-changing laws.

For further information on the above rule changes, and how we can support you with immigration matters, please contact a member of our Immigration team or, alternatively, submit an enquiry form.

Malini Skandachanmugarasan

Malini has specialised in immigration law for well over a decade and is one of the UK's leading immigration experts.

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David Ritchie

Based in the City office, David is an experienced immigration lawyer advising both organisations and individuals

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