Labour blasts government for £15m spent on UK visas by NHS

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Comments by Sanwar Ali:

UK visa fees and associated Government fees are enormous.  The UK must have amongst the highest UK visa related fees in the World.  On top of the visa fees there is both the immigration skills charge and immigration health surcharge.  Has any country in the World been able to come up with more imaginative ways to charge employers and migrants more money?  So on top of the visa fees, other fees paid by a small employer and migrant are typically £764 a year payable in advance for the duration of the Tier 2 visa.  For a larger employer the additional fees are £1,400 a year payable in advance.

Perhaps a lot of people do not realise this.  Tier 4 visa students who have completed their degree level course or will do so within three months, and those taking up PhD level jobs are exempt from the immigration skills charge requirement.  Some might argue so should medical-related jobs.

The Conservative government has been blasted by Labour for a so-called ‘stealth tax’ imposed on the NHS. According to data obtained by Labour through a freedom of information request, NHS trusts across the UK have spent £15 million on UK visa charges since 2017.

Labour has accused the government of ‘punishing’ the NHS for failing to train enough qualified doctors and nurses, and instead recruiting much-needed staff from overseas. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic there were an estimated 100,000 vacancies across NHS trusts in England.

The £15 million has been spent on the immigration skills charge, which is imposed by the Home Office on any UK employer wanting to apply for a UK visa on behalf of a person to work in Britain for six months or more under the Tier 2 visa program or Tier 2 intra-company transfer scheme.  There are a few exceptions to the immigration skills charge.  If you are a Tier 4 student switching to a Tier 2 General visa or you are taking up a PhD level occupation then the employer will not have to the immigration skills charge.

Portsmouth NHS Trust spends most on UK visa fees

According to the data, the NHS trust in Portsmouth spent the most on hiring foreign workers, racking up £2 million in fees since 2017. £1.3 million was paid out by the Barts Health NHS trust in London over the same period.

Meanwhile, the University Hospital Southampton NHS foundation trust forked out £1.2 million, and the Royal Free London NHS foundation trust spent £1.1 million.

The shadow minister for immigration, Holy Lynch, said: “The irrationality of the immigration skills charge for NHS trusts has been underlined by the coronavirus pandemic. The Conservative government should be doing all they can to support the NHS.”

“Instead, they are presenting trusts with an unenviable choice: either leave life-saving specialist roles unfilled or fork out expensive fees for overseas staff,” Lynch added.

Many more employers will have to pay UK visa fees after Brexit transitional period ends

Following Britain’s exit from the European Union and the end of the transitional period at the end of this year, employers looking to hire workers from EU countries will be subject to the immigration skills charge, paying £1,000 per employee for the first 12 months of employment and a further £500 for each additional six months.

A spokesperson for the government said: “Right across the UK immigration system we are supporting frontline healthcare staff through initiatives such as visa extensions and the creation of the bereavement scheme. We are incredibly grateful for all the hard work that health workers and care workers continue to do in the fight against coronavirus.”

“We’ve already taken steps to support the NHS during the pandemic by removing the skills charge for employers when automatically renewing visas.

“Our new points-based immigration system, for introduction from January 2021, will go even further to make sure the NHS and wider health and care sector can continue to access the best and brightest talent from across the world,” the spokesperson added.

More controversy hits Home Office over visa policy

The news that NHS trusts are spending millions on UK visa charges follows a recent row that forced the government to exempt NHS personnel and social care workers from its controversial immigration health surcharge (IHS).

Under the IHS, all non-EU workers arriving in the UK are subject to a £400 fee toward the cost of running the NHS. Government ministers have pledged to refund those who have already paid the charge since it was scrapped for NHS and care staff on May 21. However, several reports claim that the IHS is still operating. can help with Tier 2 Visa Sponsor Licence and Tier 2 Visa

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