UK Tier 2 visa cap exemption for doctors and nurses success

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The UK Visa and Immigration changes, Home Office changes from 6 July 2018 now meant that non-EU doctors and nurses are exempt from the UK Tier 2 visa cap. This also makes it much easier for other skilled level people to enter the UK.  As part of long-term government plans for the NHS, there will be no restriction on the number of foreign doctors and nurses that can be hired from outside the European Union (EU) via the Tier 2 visa route.

Sanwar Ali comment:

The new tier 2 visa cap exemption for doctors and nurses has been very helpful to migrants who need to apply for a visa from abroad. People who are able to apply for a tier 2 visa from within the UK do not come under the cap anyway. Many employers with a tier 2 sponsor licence are also benefitting from this. This exemption from 6 July 2018 has resulted in many more visas under the quota for others, and the salary requirements to employ many tier 2 visa migrants to be much lower than before. Perhaps the salary requirement will be as low as £30,000 this month.

The move has been welcomed by senior healthcare officials, who say that the exemption ‘gives the NHS the ability to hire more international doctors and nurses to provide outstanding patient care when required.’

Since 2011, the Tier 2 visa scheme has had an annual cap of 20,700. For a record six months in a row, spanning December 2017 to May 2018, the monthly limit has been exceeded. As a result, thousands of foreign medical professionals - who had secured jobs in the UK – saw their Tier 2 visa applications rejected.

Tier 2 visa demand driven by NHS

According to the UK government, demand for Tier 2 visas is largely driven by the NHS, accounting for approximately 40% of Tier 2 places. However, according to a Financial Times report, 2,630 doctors from outside the EU have been refused a visa over the last five months, despite crippling staff shortages across the NHS.

Deputy Chief Executive at NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that the exemption from the Tier 2 visa cap would be a “huge relief for trusts up and down the country who have been really struggling to fill their doctors and nurses vacancies.”

The exemption, which was outlined in Immigration Rules presented to Parliament recently, comes following months of discussions between the NHS and government officials. Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of NHS Employers, said: “We are delighted with this solution which will enable our NHS organisations to recruit the doctors they urgently need.”

Tier 2 immigration review

Hours into his appointment as Home Secretary in April, Sajid Javid promised a review of the Tier 2 immigration system, which he identified as a ‘problem’ because of the number of non-EU medical professionals facing visa refusals.

Meanwhile, Personnel Today reported that the Home Secretary is targeting a universal immigration system that doesn’t give preferential treatment to EU nationals following Britain’s exit from the bloc.

Commenting on the lifting of Tier 2 visa restrictions, Mr Javid said: “I recognise the pressures faced by the NHS and other sectors in recent months. Doctors and nurses play a vital role in society and at this time we need more in the UK. That is why I have reviewed our skilled worker visa route.”

Tier 2 visa cap change already benefits other sectors

An official government statement said that ‘as well as providing the NHS with a boost, excluding doctors and nurses from the cap will free up hundreds of additional Tier 2 places for other highly skilled occupations, including engineers, IT professionals and teachers.’

Under existing rules, skilled non-EU nationals hired to work in the UK can apply for a visa, provided that the salary for the role is a minimum of £30,000 and they have a Tier 2 certificate of sponsorship (CoS) from their potential employer.

However, over the last six months, this has not been the case. Due to demand, the minimum salary threshold was raised, while Tier 2 visa applications for jobs on the UK shortage occupation list or requiring a PhD were prioritised, leaving many skilled workers without a visa.

The Tier 2 visa cap was introduced as part of government measures to control net migration to the UK, as recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).

Tier 2 cap changes widely welcomed

The changes have been widely welcomed by NHS groups. In a statement, the Royal College of GPs said: “The cap had been arbitrary, unhelpful and in fact quite destructive. Excluding medics from it as a great step forward.”

However, Migration Watch’s Alp Mehmet, said: “I accept the change, but it shouldn’t be the long-term solution. What we must not forget to do is train our own medical staff. The UK should not raid other countries that need doctors and nurses a great deal more than we do.” can help with Tier 2 Visa Sponsorship Licences and Tier 2 Visas

If you need help with a Tier 2 visa, or a Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence, including help with complying with your Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence obligations, can help.

Many employers face sudden, unannounced onsite inspections. Contact us for a copy of our free Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence Compliance guide.

For more information and advice on UK immigration law and UK visa applications please contact us on 0344 991 9222 or at