The Government has announced that it is extending the minimum salary exemption for nurses and other skilled workers on Tier 2 visas.
The salary exemption was introduced to attract in-demand overseas workers to the NHS and schools, and it also applies to migrant teachers, paramedics and medical radiographers.
It was initially due to end in July 2019 after it was introduced following advice from the Migration Advisory Committee in November 2016 but will be reviewed ahead of the future borders and immigration system, which will be implemented after January 2021 for when the UK leaves the EU.
Individuals are ordinarily required to earn £30,000 a year under the Tier 2 (General) visa for skilled workers, but the excluded occupations only need to meet the lower rate of £20,800.
The extension, which will be effective from 30 March 2019, builds on the decision made by home secretary Sajid Javid in June last year to remove doctors and nurses from the cap on skilled worker visas.
Mr Javid said: ‘I am committed to an immigration system which attracts skilled workers and ensures employers have access to the skills they need, whilst bringing net migration down to sustainable levels.
‘That is why I removed doctors and nurses from the Tier 2 cap last year to ensure the NHS had access to the workers it needs, and it’s why I am now maintaining the minimum salary exemption for the NHS and schools so they can continue to hire experienced nurses, paramedics and teachers from abroad.’
Dame Donna Kinnair, acting chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said that the importance of the decision ‘cannot be underestimated’.
She said: ‘For as long as the UK fails to train enough of our own nurses, it is vital we remain open and welcoming to our international colleagues.
‘The Home Office have listened to our concerns and extended the minimum salary exemption for internationally recruited nurses until January 2021. Without this action, ministers risked shutting the door on international nurses who are vital for keeping our health and care services running at a time when staffing shortages are already extensive.
‘But with no clear indicators the workforce crisis is abating, and over 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England alone, the Government must now recognise the value of nurses and the care they give patients by developing a fully funded UK-wide workforce strategy, backed by legislation, to increase nursing numbers for safe and effective care.’