Health and Care Visa

The Health and Care visa, or Health and Care Worker visa is for foreign nationals to come to the UK to work within healthcare and social care sectors, mainly the National Health Service (NHS), but also some other eligible organisations.

There are many benefits for eligible individuals to get this visa to work in the UK, including reduced costs and eligibility for permanent residency after a certain number of years residing in the UK. 

We’ll look at each aspect of the Health and Care Worker visa in this comprehensive guide, including updates to the visa that have been made in 2024.

About the Health and Care Worker Visa

The Health and Care Worker visa is for eligible healthcare professionals and social care workers to come to the UK to work for the NHS and adult social care services due to the skilled nature of the work. The Health and Care Worker visa is an offshoot of the Skilled Worker visa, designed to bring highly skilled individuals to the UK to fill gaps in the job market. 

The visa is given for up to 5 years and visa holders are able to apply for indefinite leave to remain to settle permanently in the UK.

Who Is the Health and Care Worker Visa for?

To be eligible to apply for the Health and Care Worker visa, you need to be a qualified healthcare professional or social care worker and have a job offer from an approved organisation. The job you intend to undertake in the UK needs to be on the list of eligible occupations for the Health and Care Worker visa, which ensures that overseas workers can find work in needed roles in the UK. The list changes according to the needs of the UK job market, so you need to check the list regularly if you’re planning to apply for jobs in the UK before applying for your visa. 

The Skilled Worker visa has a list of eligible roles for a variety of occupations and industries, but the Health and Care Worker visa is limited to medical and care roles. If you were planning on applying for a Skilled Worker visa for a medical role in the UK, you should check the occupation code to see if the Health and Care Worker visa would be more appropriate. This visa has many advantages including lower application costs, including an exemption from the immigration health surcharge (IHS), and often faster visa processing times.

Health and Care Worker Visa

Eligible Jobs and Codes

You need to have a job offer before applying for the Health and Care Worker visa. Your job offer should state the occupation code for the role, which is made up of four numbers. If you’re still looking for work, you can still check the list of eligible occupation codes to ensure you’re applying for the right job to be eligible for the Health and Care Worker visa. 

While the list is ever-changing, and likely to change further due to the July 2024 elections and each party’s immigration promises, the current list includes the following SOC (Standard Occupational Classification) codes:

  • 1171: health services and public health managers and directors
  • 1231: health care practice managers
  • 1232: residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors
  • 2113: biochemists and biomedical scientists
  • 2114: physical scientists
  • 2211: generalist medical practitioners
  • 2212: specialist medical practitioners
  • 2221: physiotherapists
  • 2222: occupational therapists
  • 2223: speech and language therapists
  • 2224: psychotherapists and cognitive behaviour therapists
  • 2225: clinical psychologists
  • 2226: other psychologists
  • 2229: therapy professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 2231: midwifery nurses
  • 2232: registered community nurses
  • 2233: registered specialist nurses
  • 2234: registered nurse practitioners
  • 2235: registered mental health nurses
  • 2236: registered children’s nurses
  • 2237: other registered nursing professionals
  • 2251: pharmacists
  • 2252: optometrists
  • 2253: dental practitioners
  • 2254: medical radiographers
  • 2255: paramedics
  • 2256: podiatrists
  • 2259: other health professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 2461: social workers
  • 3111: laboratory technicians
  • 3211: dispensing opticians
  • 3212: pharmaceutical technicians
  • 3213: medical and dental technicians
  • 3219: health associate professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 6131: nursing auxiliaries and assistants
  • 6132: ambulance staff (excluding paramedics)
  • 6133: dental nurses
  • 6135: care workers and home carers
  • 6136: senior care workers

If your job title is not on the list, or your occupation code for a job offer you have received is not on the list, you are not eligible to apply for the Health and Care Worker visa. 

Who Is Eligible to Sponsor the Health and Care Worker Visa?

As well as needing a job offer for a position on the list of eligible occupations for the Health and Care Worker visa, you also need a job offer from an approved sponsor. Sponsors for working or study visas must have an official sponsorship licence which has been issued by the Home Office to ensure the organisation meets the requirements to receive a sponsorship licence, as well as undergo regular checks to ensure they maintain their eligibility.

To receive a sponsorship licence for the Health and Care Worker visa, an organisation must either be:

  • An NHS body
  • A service provider for the NHS
  • An organisation providing adult social care
  • An organisation listed in the official governmental guidance

The government’s guidance lists a number of organisations which are registered with the following bodies:

  • General Chiropractic Council
  • General Dental Council
  • General Medical Council
  • General Optical Council
  • General Osteopathic Council
  • General Pharmaceutical Council
  • Health and Care Professions Council
  • Northern Ireland Social Care Council
  • Nursing and Midwifery Council
  • Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland
  • Scottish Social Services Council
  • Social Care Wales

Some private companies also have contracts with the NHS to provide a variety of services for them, so if your job offer is from a private organisation, this does not automatically mean you are ineligible for the Health and Care Worker visa. You will, however, have to provide the relevant documentation from your proposed organisation detailing their contracts and work arrangements with the NHS to prove the eligibility of your role for the Health and Care Worker visa.

As of 11 March 2024, licenced sponsors will also have to be registered with the CQC (Care Quality Commission) to ensure they are up to standard. This does not apply retrospectively, so if you’re already in the UK under this visa, this will not affect you. However, new applicants should ensure their job offer is from a registered sponsor.

What You Can and Can’t Do with a Health and Care Worker Visa

As with each UK visa, there are limits in place on what activities you can and can’t undertake while staying in the UK. With the Health and Care Worker visa, you can:

  • Work in the role for which you have received the visa
  • Take on limited additional work
  • Undertake voluntary work
  • Study to some extent
  • Travel to and from the UK as you wish
  • Bring your partner and children in some circumstances
  • Apply for indefinite leave to remain after 5 years in the UK if you meet the other eligibility requirements

With the Health and Care Worker visa, you cannot:

  • Receive state benefits or a pension
  • Change jobs or employer without updating your visa

When you receive your visa, you will be given a full list of what you can and can’t do with more detail on the specifications for your exact circumstances. 

Taking On Extra Work

When you’re in the UK with a Health and Care Worker visa, you can take on extra work alongside your main job in certain circumstances. However, make sure you understand the terms of your visa before undertaking certain extra jobs, as you may need to update your visa in some cases. Whether you are required to update your visa via a letter to the Home Office depends on what type of work you’ll be doing and how many hours extra you’ll be working. 

The work you undertake can only be on the list of eligible occupations for the Skilled Worker visa. Any other work will not be permitted on your visa. 

If you’re just working overtime for your current job that you’re sponsored for, you don’t need to update your visa with the Home Office. You’re also not required to update your visa if you’re working up to 20 hours extra per week, either employed or self-employed, in a second job that is within the same occupation code (SOC) as your current sponsored position. 

You may also take on any additional voluntary role (i.e. unpaid work) for as many hours as you wish per week, without needing to update your visa.

When You Need to Update Your Visa

If you are taking on more than 20 hours of additional work per week, you will need to update your visa. Even if your second job is for fewer than 20 hours per week, you will still need to update your visa with the Home Office if the work has a different occupation code, or if the work is at a different level to your current role although with the same SOC.

Health and Care Worker Visa Requirements

There are several strict eligibility criteria for the Health and Care Worker visa, all of which must be met in order to receive the visa. 

To apply for the Health and Care Worker visa, you must:

  • Have a job offer for a position on the list of eligible occupations
  • Have a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from a licensed sponsor in the UK
  • Have a job offer that meets the minimum salary requirement for that position
  • Have sufficient funds to support yourself when you first arrive in the UK
  • Have a suitable understanding of the English language
  • Show your travel history over the last 5 years (i.e. by providing your current or old passport)
  • Provide a negative tuberculosis test from an approved test site if you’re from one of the listed countries or have been to one of the listed countries in the 6 months before your visa application
  • Provide a police certificate from any country in which you have lived for at least 12 months within the last 10 years and over the age of 18 

Once you have a job offer, your proposed employer will provide you with a Certificate of Sponsorship. This is an online document accessible with a reference number which you will need to provide with your visa application. This certificate will have the details of your proposed role, why you’re fit for the job, how many hours you’re due to work and what salary you will be earning. For all of the other eligibility requirements, it’s down to you to provide the necessary documents when applying for your visa. 

If you’re not sure what you need to provide, how to get some of the documents or are having difficulty with any other part of the application process, Synergy Immigration Solutions is here to help. 

Financial Requirements

Each UK visa has financial requirements to ensure you can support yourself without relying on public funds or illegally undertaking any work without a visa. For the Health and Care Worker visa, you will need to have a job offer for a role that meets the minimum salary requirement to ensure you’re paid sufficiently. You will also need to demonstrate you have sufficient funds to support yourself as you will likely not be paid for at least the first month that you are working and will have several expenses upon arrival in the UK such as providing a deposit for accommodation, paying your first month’s rent and bills, and covering your general living expenses. 

If you are eligible to bring family members to the UK with you as dependants, you will also need to show you have sufficient funds in your accounts to cover their living costs too.

Minimum Salary Requirement

Each job on the list of eligible occupations for the Skilled Worker visa and Health and Care Worker visa has a minimum salary requirement and a going rate. Your proposed job must offer to pay you whichever is higher out of the minimum salary or the going rate for that job. 

Many changes to the immigration system were made in the first quarter of 2024, including those to the minimum salary requirements for Skilled Worker visa applicants and Health and Care Worker visa applicants. From 4 April 2024, the minimum salary for Health and Care Worker visa applicants has risen to £23,200, so you’ll need to be paid at least this sum, or more depending on the going rate for your job. Each occupation code has a different going rate, depending on the qualifications levels, seniority of the position and other factors, so it’s important to check the going rate for your job to ensure your eligibility for the visa. 

The new rates are applicable for new candidates for the Health and Care Worker visa as well as those applying to extend their visas. 

You can check with your employer to ensure your Certificate of Sponsorship is correct, or speak to an immigration expert at Synergy Immigration Solutions for assistance. 

When You Need to Be Paid More

If your job has one of the following occupation codes, you will need to earn at least £29,000 per year, or the going rate for your position, depending on which is higher:

  • 1171: health services and public health managers and directors
  • 1231: health care practice managers
  • 1232: residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors
  • 2113: biochemists and biomedical scientists
  • 2114: physical scientists
  • 3111: laboratory technicians
  • 3211: dispensing opticians
  • 3212: pharmaceutical technicians
  • 6135: care workers and home carers
  • 6136: senior care workers

If your occupation code is not on the above list, your minimum salary requirement is £23,200 or the going rate for your job.

When You Can Be Paid Less

In some cases, you can still apply for the Health and Care Worker visa if you’re otherwise eligible but your proposed salary is less than £29,000 or the going rate for your job. However, there are strict limitations on when it’s possible to be paid less than the going rate. 

In order to be paid less than the minimum salary requirement and remain eligible for the Health and Care Worker visa, you must:

  • Be paid between 70% and 90% of the going rate for your job and over £23,200 a year
  • Be under 26 years old and studying, recently graduated or in training
  • Have a PhD or equivalent qualification relevant to your job in a STEM subject (either science, technology, engineering or maths)
  • Have a postdoctoral position in a scientific role

If your PhD or equivalent qualification is not within a STEM subject, you must be paid at least £26,100 a year for your job. If your job is on the immigration salary list (a list of skilled jobs with lower salary requirements, previously known as the Shortage Occupation List) you cannot get a discounted salary; you must be paid at least £23,200 a year. 

Maintenance Requirement

If you’re applying to extend your visa, or switching from another visa and have spent more than 12 months in the UK, you don’t need to meet the maintenance requirement i.e. provide evidence of sufficient funds to support yourself when arriving in the UK. However, when completing your visa application for the first time, you’ll need to demonstrate you can afford to support yourself for at least your first month in the UK including renting accommodation and paying for general living costs. 

In some cases, your sponsor will cover your living costs for the first month, which is referred to as A-rated. If your sponsor is A-rated you will have to provide evidence that they will cover your living costs when you apply for your visa and will be exempt from proving you have sufficient finances for your stay. 

When proving you have sufficient funds, you must show you have at least £1,270 accessible in your bank account. This money must be in your account for at least 28 days within the 31 days before you apply for your visa to show that the money is yours, accessible and will still be there when you arrive in the UK. This is known as the 28-day rule and is also a requirement of many other UK visas. 

If your dependants (long-term, married or civil partner and children) are applying to come to the UK with you, you’ll usually need to show extra funds to be able to cover their living costs too.

English Language Requirement

Working in health and social care in the UK requires a good understanding of the English language to be able to communicate effectively with colleagues and customers alike, so you’ll usually need to prove you have a good working knowledge of English when you apply for a Health and Care Worker visa. 

To prove your language abilities, you’ll need to show you have passed an approved language test such as the Secure English Language Test (SELT) and received a grade equivalent to B1 or above in reading, writing, speaking and listening, according to the CEFR. The CEFR is the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and has a scale used as a reference for language skills across the UK and Europe. The lowest grade is A1, showing basic understanding, moving up through A2, B1, B2, C1 and finishing at the highest level of C2 which is equivalent to native proficiency. 

You do not need to pass a SELT if you have a GCSE, equivalent or higher qualification gained in the UK, or if you have studied a course in English abroad which is proven to be the equivalent of a UK Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree or PhD. For confirmation your qualification is equivalent, you’ll need to apply to Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC). 

Exemptions to the English Language Requirement

If you’re a doctor, nurse, midwife or dentist, you may have already taken a relevant English language assessment; your employer can assess if this is sufficient and approve your English language skills for your visa so you don’t need to take another exam. 

You do not need to prove you have sufficient knowledge of English if you’re from a majority English-speaking country i.e. one of the following nations or territories:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • the Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • the British overseas territories
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • Malta
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA

To prove your English language skills you’ll need to provide documentary evidence with your application, unless exempt, in which case the nationality on your passport is sufficient to prove your exemption.

Applying for the Health and Care Worker Visa

All UK visa applications need to be completed online. To apply for the Health and Care Worker visa, you’ll need to have your Certificate of Sponsorship reference number ready for your application. You cannot apply for a work visa without having a job offer first (except for the Innovator Founder visa where you’ll need to have your business plan endorsed first instead). 

When applying for your Health and Care Worker visa, you’ll need to complete the online application form, entering your personal details, your CoS reference number and attaching all relevant supporting documents. Make sure you have electronic versions or scanned copies of all of your documents ready to enter online before you start your application, although you can start your application, save your progress and come back to it when you’re ready. 

You’ll then be asked to pay the application fee. 

Once the Home Office has your application, you will be asked to book an appointment with a visa application centre to have your biometric information (photograph and fingerprints) taken. They may also ask you to bring any additional documents missing from your application, or ask you some questions at your appointment to clarify any concerns. 

Health and Care Worker Visa Supporting Documents

Some supporting documents will change according to your individual circumstances (such as whether your dependants are applying for the visa as well, or if you are from an English-speaking country), however, in almost all cases, you will need to provide the following documents when applying for your Health and Care Worker visa for the first time:

  • Your current, valid passport or travel document (should not expire within 5 years)
  • Any previous or expired passports or travel documents to show your travel history
  • Your Certificate of Sponsorship reference number
  • Your employer’s details (including company name, head office address and sponsorship licence number)
  • Evidence you have sufficient funds to support yourself (such as bank statements) or a letter from your A-rated sponsor
  • Proof you have sufficient knowledge of English (such as a SELT certificate or Ecctis-approved degree certificate)
  • A negative tuberculosis test from an approved test centre
  • A police or criminal record certificate from any country lived in after the age of 18 over the last 10 years

If your dependants are applying with you, you must give proof of your relationship such as birth certificates or marriage or civil partnership certificates. If you’re unmarried, there is a list of different evidence you can provide discussed below. 

Bringing Your Family Members on a Health and Care Worker Visa

Due to the government’s attempt to curb net migration, an announcement was made in December 2023, that care workers on a Health and Care Worker visa will no longer be able to bring family members to the UK with them from Spring 2024. This regulation came into place on 11 March 2024, so care workers, including senior care workers can no longer come to the UK with their dependants. Health and Care Worker visa holders who are medical professionals in other occupations apart from care, can still bring their family members. 

Anyone in the UK on a Health and Care Worker visa before this date can remain in the UK with their family members. However, if you were in the UK as a carer before this date without your family members, they cannot now apply to join you. 

When applying for the visa with your dependants, each person will need to complete a separate application and prove the familial connection through birth certificates, or marriage or civil partnership certificates. If you and your partner are not married or in a civil partnership, you must prove that you have been living together in a relationship for at least 2 years. If you are not living together you must show why and how you maintain your relationship on your application, such as:

  • You work or study in different cities
  • You cannot live together before marriage for cultural reasons
  • You contact each other regularly
  • You see each other often
  • You care for each other financially
  • You care for any children you have together

You must also show you have sufficient finances to cover each person’s living costs, which total:

  • £1,270 for the main visa applicant
  • £285 for your partner
  • £315 for one child
  • £200 for each additional child

Each family member will also have to meet the eligibility requirements including being of good character. 

Paying the Health and Care Worker Visa Application Fee

When you complete your visa application, you will be required to pay the application fee of:

  • £284 for up to 3 years
  • £551 for more than 3 years

Each applicant (including your dependants) will have to pay this fee. The application fee is the same for initial applications and visa extensions. 

How Long It Takes to Get a Decision

Your Certificate of Sponsorship should have a proposed start date for you to begin working in the UK. You can apply for your visa up to 3 months before this proposed start date. 

Once you’ve completed your online application and attended your appointment to prove your identity and have your biometric information taken (and any additional documents required), you’ll usually receive a decision from the Home Office within 3 weeks. 

You may be able to pay £500 for the priority service to receive a decision within 5 working days after your appointment, or £1000 for the super priority service to receive a decision within 2 working days following your visa appointment. 

Switching Jobs with a Health and Care Worker Visa

If you change jobs while in the UK on a Health and Care Worker visa, you’ll need to notify the Home Office and provide them a new Certificate of Sponsorship with the details of your new employment. If you change to a job that is not on the list of eligible occupations, you will need to apply for a new visa that is relevant to your job category. 

Even if you’re starting a new job under the same occupation code but under a new employer, you will still need a new CoS and to update the Home Office of the changes. 

If your job is taken off the list of eligible occupations, you do not need to update your visa and may still be able to extend your visa when necessary. Check with Synergy Immigration Solutions if you’re unsure of whether you can extend your visa or not. 

Extending Your Health and Care Worker Visa

Like the Skilled Worker visa, Health and Care Worker visas are usually granted for 5 years, although they can be granted for up to 3 years in some cases. You must decide before your visa expires whether you intend to extend your visa, switch your visa or leave the UK. If your visa expires while you’re in the UK, you’ll be asked to leave the country and cannot extend your visa from abroad. 

You can apply to extend your Health and Care Worker visa if:

  • You’re still in the UK
  • Your job, occupation code and employer all remain the same
  • You continue to meet the eligibility requirements of your visa including the minimum salary requirement

If any of your employment information changes, regardless of whether your new job is still eligible for the Health and Care Worker visa, you must apply for a new visa with a new Certificate of Sponsorship rather than applying to extend your visa. 

If you have been in the UK for 5 years, you can apply for permanent residency in the UK (also known as settlement or indefinite leave to remain) if you meet the other eligibility requirements. 

Your dependant’s visas will not automatically renew when you extend yours, they must apply to extend or switch their visas with you or they will be required to leave the country. 

Settling in the UK

Settling in the UK, or gaining ILR, can give you a sense of security as you no longer have to meet stringent eligibility requirements for certain visas or have an expiration date looming in the future. You can apply for ILR after living in the UK for at least 5 years under the Health and Care Worker visa or any combination of valid visas. 

Valid visas include long-term visas, including, but not limited to:

You cannot include any time spent on short-term visas such as:

The five years begin on the start date of your first valid visa. You can then apply for ILR up to 28 days before your 5-year date to ensure you begin your application before it expires. 

You will also need to meet other eligibility requirements for ILR, including:

  • You must have lived in the UK for 5 years continuously immediately preceding your application
  • You must not have spent more than 180 days outside of the UK within each 12 months of your stay, and no more than 450 days in total
  • You must pass the Life in the UK test about British culture, values, traditions and history
  • You must meet the English language requirement
  • You must show you are of good character (not have committed any serious, financial or immigration crimes)

Particular to the Skilled Worker visa and Health and Care Worker visa, you must also:

  • Continue to be needed for your job and meet the minimum salary requirements
  • Provide a letter from your sponsor confirming this

After 12 months in the UK with ILR, you may then be eligible to apply for British citizenship.

Need Visa Assistance?

Going through visa applications can be a complicated process, especially if it’s your first time and you need to collect the right documents for your application and ensure everything is done in time. Fortunately, Synergy Immigration Solutions are here to help. 

Synergy Immigration Solutions

Specialising in visas for the UK, Synergy Immigration Solutions has a team of visa experts ready to help provide assistance to applicants through any point in their applicant process, from securing sponsorship licences to applying for Visitor visas and extended Family visas. Contact us today to learn how we can help you with your application.

Health and Care Worker Visa FAQs

As an offshoot of the Skilled Worker visa, there are naturally many questions surrounding the Health and Care Worker visa. While we strive to cover every aspect of the visa in our guide, here are answers to some of the frequently asked questions we receive about the Health and Care Worker visa.

Can You Work for the NHS with a Health and Care Worker Visa?

Yes! The Health and Care Worker visa is designed for skilled foreign workers to come to the UK to work in public health and social sectors associated with the National Health Service. This includes working directly for NHS organisations, such as hospitals and GP practices, as well as service providers for the NHS and some private organisations that have contracts with the NHS to provide additional services. 

Your employer must have a sponsorship licence and be registered with the CQC in England to be eligible to sponsor you.

Do You Need to Pay the IHS?

No! Health and Care Worker visa applicants are exempt from paying the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) which allows visa holders to access NHS services free of charge in the UK. 

    Contact the Synergy Team