Spotlight on the Care Sector – How to sponsor migrant carers and care workers (July 2023 Update)

Migrant carers

10 second summary:

"2022 saw over 2,000 UK care providers granted a Sponsor Licence and over 40,000 applications for care worker visas.With at least 165,000 vacancies in the social care sector, sponsoring experienced overseas carers to work in the UK is a vital lifeline for many providers."
Can we get a Skilled Worker visa for care workers?

In February 2022, the role of care worker was added to the UK’s Shortage Occupation List, meaning that for the first time in a decade, it is now possible to sponsor migrant workers for a visa to fill these roles.

As a result of this change, the number of care providers applying for a Sponsor Licence to enable them to sponsor migrant workers has increased significantly. 

Number of care providers obtaining a Sponsor Licence, per quarter

Number of visa applications for Care Workers and Senior Care Workers, per quarter

We’re a staffing agency rather than a care provider - can we sponsor care workers?

Unfortunately not. To sponsor a migrant care worker via the Skilled Worker route, you must be in control of the migrant worker’s day to day tasks. Typically with a staffing agency in this sector, it would be the end provider (generally registered with the CQC) that is responsible for the migrant worker’s actions on a day to day basis, and so it is the end provider that must act as the sponsor.

We get asked this question at least once a week by agencies who see there is a gap in the market. As outlined above, the reality is that the gap exists because it is simply not viable to operate this business model.

What’s the minimum salary to get a Skilled Worker visa for a care worker?

As the role is on the Shortage Occupation List, the salary needs to meet both of the following conditions:

  • At least £10.75 per hour
  • At least £20,960 per annum, in absolute terms.

Whilst most employers in the sector can meet the £10.75 hourly salary, you do need to be careful that you can guarantee enough weekly hours to ensure the migrant worker will earn at least £20,960 per annum. At £10.75 per hour, this works out as 37.5 hours per week. 

This amount must be paid as a basic salary and cannot include allowances or the provision of accommodation.

If you are making deductions from the migrant worker’s salary for services including accommodation, you must be extremely careful to evidence the true market value of the service and that the migrant worker has opted to utilise this service of their own free will. Because this is complex and can prompt further investigation by UKVI, it is not something we recommend.

Do migrant care workers need to have specific experience or qualifications?

The Skilled Worker visa route does not dictate that applicants must have specific qualifications or experience, but simply that applicants must be suitable for the role in question. Generally, the rules leave it up to employers to decide whether an applicant is suitable for the role, and in the care sector, particularly at lower levels, employers often focus on soft skills and personal attributes rather than specific qualifications and experience. This is fine, provided the employer keeps a job description showing the requirements of the role and notes on how the migrant worker was assessed against those requirements, normally by interview.

How much does it cost to get a Skilled Worker visa for a care worker?

Most care providers are considered small or charitable sponsors, meaning the cost to sponsor each migrant worker for a 3-year visa is £1,291. £1,092 of this represents the Immigration Skills Charge and must be paid by the employer. The other £199 represents the fee to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship and is conventionally paid by the employer.

N.B these costs exclude the cost of applying for a Sponsor Licence, which for a small or charitable sponsor is £536.

The applicant will also need to pay for their visa, although thankfully they will qualify under the Health Care visa rules, making it significantly less expensive. For a 3 year visa, they’ll need to pay £232, plus £232 per dependent family member they are bringing with them.

Full breakdown of sponsorship costs for care workers:

Small company for accounting purposes or charityNot a small company
Once every 4 years
Getting a Sponsor Licence£536£1,476
Per person you want to sponsor
Paid by the company
Assigning a Certificate£199£199
Immigration Skills Charge£1,092*£3,000*
Normally paid by the applicant
Visa application£232*£232*
Immigration Health Surcharge£0 (exempt)£0 (exempt)
*These amounts assume a 3-year visa – longer visas increase costs
Can we do this ourselves?

If you have the time and inclination to read many pages of official guidance and understand what you need to do and how to avoid the pitfalls, you can of course make a successful application without support from a professional. Many people do and are successful in their applications. The starting point is always the UKVI website.

But if you’ve got better things to be getting on with, like running your business, or doing your day-job, we can help.

Using an immigration lawyer or consultant can seem expensive, particularly if you are looking for assistance with each and every application you make. You can read more about why we think our service is worthwhile here.

We also work with a large number of care providers and have extensive experience of helping employers build in-house capability to support these applications without needing to pay an external consultant for each and every application. Getting support with the Sponsor Licence application and the first few sponsorship applications you make is a great way to learn how the system works without the risks that come from trying to do everything yourself from the start.

We pride ourselves on always working collaboratively with our clients – we don’t hold knowledge back and keep our expertise locked in a ‘black box’. There is no mystery to our service – we’re just experts in this process, and we’re happy to help you gain the necessary knowledge and expertise if that’s something you want to do!

What's next?

If you want to sponsor migrant care workers to work for your business, the first thing you’ll need to do is apply for a Sponsor Licence if you don’t already have one. Read our quick guide to sponsorship for further information on the process.

If you’re interested in getting professional expert help with your application, please get in touch. We always offer a free initial assessment to confirm the viability of the application and suggest the best way forwards.

How long does it take to get a Sponsor Licence

How long does it take to get a Sponsor Licence? (April 2023 update)

In April 2023, the average processing time for a Sponsor Licence application is just over 8 weeks. Despite a record number of applications, UKVI is getting faster due to increased caseworking capacity. Now’s a great time to apply for a Sponsor Licence, but it’s still important to get it right first time!

Read More »
Rule changes

Care Worker roles to be added to the Shortage Occupation List and eligible for Skilled Worker visas from 15 February 2022

From 15 February 2022, for a period of 12 months, UK care providers will now be able to sponsor work visas for all care worker roles. It has previously only been possible to sponsor senior care workers, so this is a significant and positive change for many UK care homes and domiciliary care agencies struggling to recruit from the domestic workforce.

Read More »
Rule changes

Youth Mobility Scheme to open to citizens of India and Iceland from January 2022

From 2022, citizens of India and Iceland will be eligible for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa for the UK. This working holidaymaker visa allows 18-30 year olds to live and work in the UK for two years. There will be a strict limit on numbers – only 1,000 visas per year for Icelandic citizens and 3,000 visas per year for Indian citizens who also need to meet an additional qualification or experience requirement.

Read More »

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