Author/Key Contact: Sabina Kauser
Due to the shortage of healthcare workers in the UK, the Healthcare Worker visa was introduced in 2021 to allow professionals, including qualified doctors, dentists, nurses and adult social care professionals, to enter the UK as sponsored workers.
Although a lot of UK healthcare organisations are aware of the availability of the healthcare worker visa, allowing them to plug the skills shortage when recruiting, some are still unfamiliar with the requirements to obtain a sponsor licence and their duties to maintain the licence once granted.
In order to employ skilled non-UK residents, organisations need to obtain a sponsor licence. Whilst the licence permits organisations to access global talent, it comes with the responsibility of compliance duties for the sponsor/employer. Once a license is issued, organisations can sponsor and employ foreign, skilled healthcare professionals for roles that may otherwise remain unfilled due to the shortage of healthcare workers in the UK.
Once a licence is issued, employers can issue a certificate of sponsorship to a potential employee, which in turn will allow the employee to apply for a Healthcare Worker visa.
Sponsor licences are renewable and are usually issued for four years. The UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) can carry out onsite inspections (before the licence is issued or renewed) to verify the use of adequate HR systems, put in place by the sponsor, to guarantee compliance.
Depending upon the number of skilled workers an organisation employs, the licence management will not require daily attention. However, duties to maintain and comply cannot be neglected. By failing to comply with duties, there can be allegations of non-compliance and the UKVI has the power to investigate any suspected breaches of sponsor duties.
Sponsor licence duties begin from the date that the licence is issued until the licence ends. Where the UKVI finds that sponsor licence compliance duties have not been met, the licence can be downgraded, suspended or revoked, which can put the jobs and immigration status of existing migrant workers at risk.
Sponsor licence duties
- Ensuring potential sponsored workers have the necessary skills, experience or professional qualifications required to carry out the role, and that records and documentation confirming the same is retained.
- Allocation of Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to potential sponsored workers only for jobs that qualify for sponsorship.
- Monitoring of sponsored workers and notifying the Home Office if they breach any of their visa or sponsorship conditions.
In practice, the duties can be broken down as follows:
- Reporting duties: submitting specific information or events to the Home Office through the SMS within specific time frames.
- Record-keeping duties: maintaining records for each supported worker.
- Compliance with Immigration Rules: respecting all requirements of the Worker and Temporary Worker Sponsor Guidance and UK immigration laws.
- Compliance with UK laws: to abide by UK law generally.
- Acting in public good: duty to conduct in a way that is compatible with core values and does not harm the greater benefit of society by refraining from behaviour or actions that are not beneficial to society.
If the UKVI suspects you have breached any of these duties, you risk your licence being downgraded, suspended or revoked.
If you require assistance with obtaining a sponsor licence, compliance support and guidance or other enquiries relating to your sponsorship duties or applying for a Healthcare Worker visa, please get in touch.