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Ban for Care Worker Dependents

In unveiling its five-point immigration plan in December 2023, the government of the UK explicitly targeted the healthcare sector in an effort to reduce overall immigration numbers. Since the announcement, uncertainty has loomed within the industry regarding the practical implications of these plans and their potential effects on healthcare providers, their personnel, and service delivery. On February 19, 2024, the government released a statement outlining changes to immigration rules, specifying details scheduled to take effect on 11 March 2024.

What’s Altering?

Starting March 11, 2024, newly sponsored skilled workers under standard occupation codes (SOC) 6145 – caregiving workers and home caregivers, and 6146 – senior caregiving workers, will no longer be permitted to bring dependents to the UK.

However, transitional provisions will safeguard individuals already in the UK as skilled workers, or those who have submitted skilled worker applications before the changes take effect on 11 March 2024. To qualify for the transitional provisions, a skilled worker must have been granted permission to remain as a skilled worker, sponsored under SOC 6145 or 6146 under the rules in place before 11 March 2024, and must have continuously held permission to remain as a skilled worker in either or both of these SOC codes.

Moreover, sponsors in the UK will also need to be registered with the Care Quality Commission and conduct regulated activities.

How Will the Rule Adjustments Operate?

Healthcare providers will be eager to grasp the practical implications of these changes for their current and potential employees. Below are various practical examples of how the rule changes will manifest.

Scenario 1:

You have allocated certificates of sponsorship to potential employees in SOCs 6145 and/or 6146. The workers have submitted their skilled worker visa applications before 11 March 2024. The applications are still pending on 11 March 2024.

If successful, will the applicants’ dependents be permitted to join them in the UK?

Yes. Applications filed before 11 March 2024, will be adjudicated based on the immigration rules in place on 10 March 2024. Caregiving workers and senior caregiving workers are allowed to bring their dependents if their applications were decided based on the rules in effect on 10 March 2024.

Scenario 2:

You currently employ several skilled workers, some of whom are accompanied by their dependents in the UK. All are scheduled to apply for an extension of stay in the UK under SOCs 6145 and/or 6146 after 11 March 2024. Will their dependents be able to apply for an extension of stay concurrently?

Yes. Your employees will be covered by the transitional provisions and will continue to be allowed to bring their dependents.

Scenario 3:

You are currently employing a worker under the graduate route. They are accompanied in the UK by their partner and children, who are dependents on their current permission. You are contemplating sponsoring their continued employment after their current permission expires.

Will the employee’s dependents be allowed to join them if they switch to a skilled worker visa under SOCs 6145 or 6146 after 11 March 2024?

No. If your employee applies for permission to remain as a skilled worker on or after 11 March 2024, their dependents will not be eligible to apply to remain as their dependents. The fact that their dependents currently have permission to remain in the UK as dependents of the worker under a different visa route does not guarantee their eligibility to remain as dependents under the skilled worker route.

What Measures Can Your Organization Implement to Mitigate the Impact of These Changes?

Organizations concerned about their ability to attract or retain workers due to these changes should explore the possibility of accelerating recruitment plans for new hires or consider sponsoring existing employees to transition to the skilled worker route before 11 March 2024.

Should your organization require guidance and support to navigate these changes, please reach out to a member of our immigration team.