UK immigration laws for the recruitment of non-EU nurses have been temporarily relaxed by Home Secretary Theresa May. This follows calls for the Home Office to add nurses to the Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List (SOL). These health care workers will now be exempt from new rules coming into effect in April 2016.
This make it easier for nurses from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) to get Tier 2 visas. It will also will reduce pressure on the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). The inclusion of nursing in the SOL is pending a detailed review by the Migration Advisory Committee. If the committee finds there is insufficient evidence for this inclusion, nursing can be removed from the SOL, making it once again subject to general Tier 2 visa regulations.
For now, nursing is on the SOL, making it easier for employers to recruit from outside the European Union (EU). This will also reduce the NHS’ reliance on agencies, whose high fees cost the UK taxpayer billions of Pounds in 2014.
Following this decision, the Home Office has come under pressure to reconsider the £35,000 salary threshold, equating to the salary of a senior nurse. Non-EEA workers in other occupations who are earning less than this figure are deported after six years. According to the Royal College of Nursing, if this regulation does not change by 2020, 7,000 overseas nurses will be deported.
Nurses applying under the SOL will still need to meet the standard requirements for Tier 2 visas. In addition to these, nurses will need to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, have passed the Nursing and Midwifery Council Computer Based Test of competence or have obtained the permission of the Nursing and Midwifery Council before 30 April 2015 to undertake the Overseas Nursing Program.
Before the updated regulation, non-EU nurses were treated as general non-EU visa applicants, needing to receive one of the 20,700 visas available each year.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) expects the relaxed regulations will mean a significant increase in the number of overseas-trained nurses in the UK. However, they are confident they have the resources and capacity to process the increased volume of applications within 70 days of receipt.
The changed visa regulations will assist with the nursing deficit in the short term, but more local nurses are also being recruited to assist with a long-term solution.
increased nurse training places by 14% over the last two years. More than 23,000 additional nurses are expected to join the workforce by 2019.