LONDON: A fast-track health and care visa has been unveiled as part of plans for the UK’s points-based immigration system for when freedom of movement ends. Home Secretary Priti Patel said employers would be encouraged to invest in workers from within the UK. But the new system, she added, would also allow them to “attract the best and brightest from around the world”.
The new system is set to come into force on New Year’s Day, immediately ending freedom of movement with the EU. Under the government’s plan, those wishing to live and work in the UK must gain 70 points, BBC has reported.
Points would be awarded for meeting criteria such as having a job offer, holding a PhD relevant to the job, speaking English or earning more than £22,000 a year. Those with job offers in “shortage occupations” such as nursing and civil engineering would also be able to earn extra points.
In a written ministerial statement to the House of Commons, Ms Patel said: “At a time where an increased number of people across the UK are looking for work, the new points-based system will encourage employers to invest in the domestic UK workforce, rather than simply relying on labour from abroad.
“But we are also making necessary changes, so it is simpler for employers to attract the best and brightest from around the world to come to the UK to complement the skills we already have.”
The new health and care visa will have a reduced fee. Those applying would for it should expect a reply within three weeks, the government said.
Ms Patel also said frontline health workers would not have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge. However, social care workers would not be able to take advantage of the new visa, Downing Street confirmed.
Ms Patel also said the visa process for students was being refined, with a new graduate route being launched next summer to “help retain the brightest and the best students to contribute to the UK post-study”. International students would be able to stay for a minimum of two years after finishing their studies, she said.
Immigrants who have been sentenced to a year or more in prison in the UK “must be considered for deportation” under new immigration rules. Documents published on Monday reveal more information on how the new points-based immigration system, due to be introduced after freedom of movement ends in January, could work.
According to an Evening Standard report, the documents confirm the Government’s intentions to refuse entry to those with a conviction carrying a custodial sentence of at least 12 months and sets out that anyone already in the UK who has been sentenced to a year or more in prison “must be considered for deportation”.
The change would mean criminals from the European Union are treated the same as those from non-EU countries. Under the present rules, convicted criminals from the bloc can only be excluded on a case-by-case basis.
“A robust and consistent approach to applying the UK criminality thresholds for the refusal of entry, permission to remain in the UK, deportation and exclusion, to EU and non-EU citizens, will be taken as part of the Points-Based System,” the document says.
The document adds: “Where the 12-month criminality deportation threshold is not met, a foreign criminal will still be considered for deportation where it is conducive to the public good, including where they have serious or persistent criminality.
“For EU citizens who are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement or the UK’s domestic implementation of the withdrawal agreements, the tougher UK criminality thresholds will apply to conduct committed after the end of the transition period.
“The EU public policy, public security or public health test will continue to apply to their conduct committed before the end of the transition period.”
The scenarios for refusal include those with a conviction with a custodial sentence length of at least 12 months, those who have committed an offence which caused serious harm or if they are “a persistent offender who shows a particular disregard for the law”.
The document also says people could be refused entry if “their character, conduct or associations means their presence is not conducive to the public good”.
The papers said the enforcement system would be “fair, protects the public, upholds our immigration policies, and acts as a deterrent to those who might seek to frustrate those policies”, adding: “Those who breach our immigration laws and rules place themselves at risk of exploitation by unscrupulous bodies such as organised crime groups and rogue employers and landlords.”
The new immigration system is designed to cut the number of low-skilled migrants entering Britain from the beginning of next year, but aims to make it easier for higher-skilled workers to get UK visas.
People who want to live and work in the UK will need to gain 70 points to be eligible to apply for a visa. Points will be awarded for key requirements like being able to speak English to a certain level, having a job offer from an approved employer, and meeting a minimum salary threshold.
A health and care visa will also provide a visa route for key health professionals to work in the UK, while a graduate route will allow international students to stay in the UK for at least two years after completing their studies.
Downing Street has confirmed that social care workers would not be able to take advantage of the new NHS visa. “We want employers to invest more in training and development for care workers in this country,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said:
“On care workers specifically, our independent migration advisers have said that immigration is not the sole answer here, which is why we have provided councils with an additional £1.5 billion of funding for social care in 2021/22, as well as launching a new recruitment campaign.”
Existing European Union workers in the care sector could apply to stay in the UK through the settlement scheme “and a very large number have done so”, the spokesman said adding; “Those people will remain in the UK providing really important care to the elderly and the vulnerable.”
PM Boris Johnson said the UK will have a “humane and sensible” immigration system despite “taking back control” after Brexit. Asked if he thinks there will be enough people coming in to work in the social care system, the Prime Minister told reporters: “I do. Don’t forget one of the amazing things we’ve seen in the last few months is actually there are more EU nationals, I’m proud to say, living and working in this country than we even thought.
“We’re seeing huge numbers of people registering for their right to remain and that’s great so we have a big, big stock of workers who are helping out in this country who have come from abroad.
Labour Party has said it would scrutinise the proposals “very carefully”, saying the government had “rushed through immigration legislation with very little detail in the middle of a global pandemic”.