The Royal College of Nursing says it has “grave concerns” that a shake up of UK immigration policy could lead to thousands of overseas nurses being forced to leave the UK.
The Home Office announced in February that it would change immigration rules for non European Union workers wanting to settle permanently in the UK. From 2016, skilled temporary workers – classified as tier 2 migrants – will have to earn at least £35,000 before they can apply for permanent residency.
Temporary permission to enter and remain in the UK will be capped at six years, though the rule will not apply to “shortage occupation jobs”, a category which includes specialist nurses.
An impact assessment of the policy change, published on 15 March, reveals that the government believes nearly half of non EU migrant nurses could be affected by the cap. It states: “We estimate 48% of migrant nurses… would be excluded.”
However, the assessment went on to claim the cap was “not expected” to have a significant impact on the nursing labour force because “the volumes prevented from settling are low relative” to the size of the total workforce.
“The likely reduction due to the settlement salary threshold is likely to lie in the hundreds or low thousands, when there are an estimated 698,000 nurses working in the UK,” it said.
But the RCN warned it would result in workforce shortages and future difficulties in attracting overseas nurses.
Chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “It is deeply concerning that it looks like almost half of overseas nurses from outside the EU would not be eligible to qualify to settle in the UK after 2016 as a result of these changes.”