Nurse leaders urge government to scrap increase in visa fees

Nurse leaders have urged the government to scrap a “divisive” increase in visa fees for health and care staff, warning that it will make the UK a less attractive place to work.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has written to the home secretary today to say that visa increases may become a “significant barrier” to attracting and retaining overseas nurses.

“Nurses and care workers, regardless of their country of origin, make a vital contribution to this country”

Pat Cullen

It comes as almost half of new joiners to the Nursing and Midwifery Council register are now coming from overseas countries.

Under new government rules, which have come into effect this week, application fees for the health and care visa route have increased by 15%.

Now, staff applying for the health and care visa where a certificate of sponsorship will be issued for up to three years will pay £284, and £551 for more than three years.

This is despite the estimated cost of processing health and care visa applications only being £129 for overseas applicants, warned the RCN.

In the letter, sent by the RCN’s general secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullen, it said: “We are concerned that these fee increases will make the UK a less attractive place to live and work for the nurses and other health professionals who make vital contributions to our health and care sector every day.”

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Also under the changes, overseas nursing students will see a £127 increase in application fees under the changes – at a new cost of £490.

The RCN warned that the visa fee increases “will further disincentivise overseas applicants from studying in the UK”.

The letter noted that, since 2019, the number of international students accepted onto nursing courses across the UK had been steadily rising, but that increasing the visa costs risked “stalling this growth”.

Meanwhile the cost to apply for settlement in the UK – also known as indefinite leave to remain – is also set to increase by 20% to £2,885.

In the context of a decade of pay erosion for health and care staff, these fees could be unaffordable for many workers and may act as “a significant barrier to settlement”, said the letter.

Ms Cullen said: “Nurses and care workers, regardless of their country of origin, make a vital contribution to this country in both the care they provide and the taxes and National Insurance contributions they already pay.

“They deserve to be valued and recognised.

“Subjecting our much-needed internationally educated staff in the health and care sector to additional levies is not only unjust but divisive and short-sighted.”

In response, a government spokesperson said: “We recognise the significant contribution of overseas NHS workers but must keep our immigration policies under constant review to ensure they best serve the UK and reflect the public’s priorities.

“There are already a record number of nurses working in the NHS.

“The health and care visa also remains significantly cheaper [than other types of visas] for eligible people working in health and social care to come to the UK with their families.”

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