Sponsor Licence

Sponsor licence applications for UK care homes

By Amer Zaman

on July 8, 2022

Read Time: 7 Minutes

Amid concerns about labour shortages in the social care sector, earlier this year, the UK Government added care workers and home carers to its Skilled Worker Shortage Occupation List, or SOL. Taking effect from 15th February 2022, this has had the effect of making such workers from overseas eligible to apply for a UK work visa.

The Minister for Safe and Legal Migration first confirmed in January that they would be accepting recommendations put forward by the Migration Advisory Committee in relation to adding care workers and home carers to the Health and Care Worker visa and Shortage Occupation List. This was followed later in the month by the publication of a Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules, outlining that under the occupation code 6145, care workers and home carers – also encompassing such related job titles as “care assistant”, “carer”, and “support worker (nursing home)” – would be added to the SOL.

What is the Shortage Occupation List?

The Shortage Occupation List, or SOL, is a list under Appendix Shortage Occupation List of the UK Immigration Rules. It is a list of shortage occupations for the UK’s Skilled Worker route, the principle being that these roles are judged to be in short supply within the UK labour force, and therefore merit more relaxed eligibility requirements for sponsored work visas. The idea behind the list is to make it easier for migrants in these shortage roles to more easily obtain the work visa that would enable them to fill such a vacancy in the UK.

How did the UK Immigration Rules treat social care workers prior to this change?

Before the announcement of the aforementioned change to facilitate the recruitment of care workers and home carers from outside of the UK, the following workers already appeared on the SOL:

  • Senior care workers, under the occupation code 6146
  • Social workers, under the occupation code 2442
  • Residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors, under the occupation code 1242

This meant that, in accordance with the UK’s points-based immigration system, UK care providers were only permitted to sponsor and recruit overseas staff that fell into one of the above categories.

However, to this list has now been added “Shortage Occupations which are otherwise not eligible for the Skilled Worker route” under the 6145 occupation code, including care assistants, care workers, home care assistants, home carers, and nursing home support workers.

It means that such applicants for work visas in the UK might only need to earn £20,480 as a minimum salary requirement.

The eligibility of these workers for the UK Health and Care Worker visa also renders them exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge. Meanwhile, organisations that wish to employ these home carers and care workers will need to hold a valid sponsorship licence.

Should your care home apply for a sponsor licence?

If this latest change to the UK Immigration Rules seems to be of relevance to your care home, you might be considering whether to apply for a sponsor licence, so that you will be able to recruit home carers and care workers from overseas via the Skilled Worker route. However, before you decide on this, there are some important factors to consider.

Firstly, when the Government announced the aforementioned additions to the SOL, many observers noted that it only committed to adding these occupations to the list for a temporary period of 12 months.

This might raise the question for your care home of whether you are prepared to change your business model to include the hiring of care workers from overseas, only for this source of personnel to then possibly be denied to you again fromFebruary 2023 if the Government reverses the change.

It is also important to account for the amount of time it will take for you to obtain a sponsor licence and recruit a worker under the newly added occupation code. You can expect it to take around two months for the Home Office to approve your care home for a sponsor licence, presuming that you are successful in your application.

But even once you have received the sponsor licence and the candidate has accepted your job offer, there will be a need for them to apply for the relevant visa. This will take about one to two months more.

So, for many care homes, depending greatly on recruiting personnel from overseas through the Skilled Worker route might seem a high-risk strategy. There is also presently a lack of visibility with regard tothe timeframes that can be expected for the Home Office to approve visas for care workers and home carers through this route, which might give you further reason to proceed only with caution.

Alternatively, your care home might already hold a sponsor licence, or you may already have the infrastructure in place that would enable you to submit a sponsor licence application and get Home Office approval relatively quickly. If either of these situations applies to your organisation, you might still decide it is more than worthwhile to take advantage of this 12-month window for recruiting care workers from outside of the UK. That might ultimately look like an even wiser course of action if the Government chooses to keep these occupations on the SOL for longer than the initial 12 months.

How can my care home apply for a sponsor licence?

You will not be able to sponsor a carer to come and work in the UK on a Health and Care Worker visa – which is a visa category under the broader Skilled Worker route –unless you first hold a valid sponsor licence.

So, gaining Home Office approval for that sponsor licence will be the first step of the process, before you will then be permitted to recruit a suitably qualified worker.

This will mean undergoing the following process:

  • Ensuring that your business is eligible, including by having appropriate systems in place for the monitoring of sponsored employees, and not having any unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or certain other crimes
  • Checking that the job you are looking to obtain a sponsor licence for is suitable for sponsorship
  • Selecting the appropriate type of sponsor licence
  • Determining who will manage your firm’s responsibilities in relation to the sponsor licence; the roles include the authorising officer, key contact, and level 1 user
  • Putting together the sponsor licence application and applying online. You will also need to pay the Home Office’s fee when you apply. You can expect it to take about eight weeks or less to receive a decision on your application. Bear in mind that as part of its processing of your sponsor licence application, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) may conduct an in-person visit to your care home.

The sooner your care home has its valid sponsor licence in place, the sooner it will be able to use this sponsor licence to recruit overseas carers and fill its skill gaps.

What requirements do carers need to meet for a Health and Care Worker visa?

There is a two-pronged process for care homes wishing to take advantage of the latest additions of care workers and home carers to the SOL. Once your care home has catered to the first ‘prong’ – having a valid sponsor licence in place – it will be able to move onto the second ‘prong’, which is the recruitment of a suitable candidate.

A sponsored home carer or care worker will need to satisfy the below criteria in order to be granted the Health and Care Worker visa:

  • Having been issued by you with a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) for an eligible job
  • Being paid a minimum of £20,480 and £10.10 an hour, on the basis of a 39-hour week
  • Meeting the maintenance requirement, showing that they will be capable of supporting themselves once they arrive in the UK. More specifically, the applicant will be expected to have £1,270 available to them for at least 28 days; alternatively, you might provide confirmation on the applicant’s CoS that you will cover their costs during their first month in the country
  • Meeting the English language requirement; the Home Office must be confident that the applicant is able to speak, understand, read, and write English to a minimum level
  • Having a criminal record certificate from the country in which they presently reside; this requirement is in line with those for other care roles in the UK, and it is likely that background checks, including a DBS check, will be carried out
  • Having tuberculosis test results, if the applicant is coming from a country for which this is a requirement

How can Cranbrook Legal help your care home to obtain a sponsor licence?

If your UK care home is interested in recruiting overseas staff through the Skilled Worker route, you can have the utmost confidence in the professionalism and responsiveness of our services. For a pre-agreed fixed fee, our award-winning immigration solicitors can project manage every stage of your application for a sponsor licence.

Our skilled and experienced specialists in immigration law have undertaken hundreds of successful sponsor licence applications for care homes – and once you are approved for a sponsor licence, we can even manage the sponsor licence portal on your behalf. We can also help applicants for carer roles to obtain a visa under the Skilled Worker route.  For more information and advice in relation to any of our services in immigration law, please do not hesitate to call our central London-based team on 0208 215 0053 today.

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