In February 2022, the Government relaxed the rules around sponsoring care workers and reduced the costs of sponsorship, both for sponsor and the care worker being sponsored. These changes, combined with systemic shortages of suitable ‘home grown’ talent, mean sponsorship is now a viable and increasingly well-trodden route for many care homes and care providers.

This article looks at the key issues you need to be aware of as a care home or provider of care, if you want to sponsor overseas care workers. This article should be highly relevant to any organisation interested in sponsoring care workers, whether your business is a care home, independent or supported living provider, or a provider of domiciliary care.

We will provide an overview of the sponsorship system and then run through some Q & As, to address what we have found to be the most pressing questions for our care-sector clients.

How to Sponsor Care Workers – An Overview

Until the changes that occurred in 2022, care workers were classed as being too ‘low skilled’ to be sponsored.  This classification was altered when the Government added care workers into the list of jobs capable of sponsorship, and to the Shortage Occupation List. This move allowed care workers to be sponsored, but greatly reduced the minimum salary a sponsor must pay a care worker.

To sponsor a care worker, you will first need a specific licence known as a Skilled Worker sponsor licence. Each care worker you sponsor will need a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ – a virtual document which you request from the Home Office as needed and which you then ‘assign’ to the care worker.

Once the care worker has the certificate of sponsorship assigned to them, they can apply for their Skilled Worker visa, which will allow them to come and work for you. Your care worker could already be in the UK in another visa capacity or could come in from overseas.

Obviously, there’s a bit more too it than that. Our FAQs below should answer many of your questions.

Sponsoring Care Workers – FAQ

How much do I have to pay the care worker?

The current rules state you must guarantee the care worker at least £20,480 per year. The pay also cannot be less than £10.10 per hour. At current rates, the least you could pay your care worker is £20,482.00 (£10.10 per hour x 39 hours per week x 52 weeks =£20,482.00).

Note, however, that the minimum wage increases to £10.42 per hour from April 2023.

How much will sponsorship cost the employer?

Sponsorship costs will vary depending on whether you are classed as a ‘small’ or a ‘medium/’large’ business. The licence will cost £536 for a small business, or £1,476 for a medium/large business.

For each person you sponsor, you will need to pay a one-off fee of £199 for one certificate of sponsorship. You will then normally have to pay the Immigration Skills Charge. For a small company the Skills Charge is £364 per person per year, otherwise it’s £1,000.

Occasionally an employer can be exempt from the Immigration Skills Charge, most commonly if the individual is switching from a Student visa. Read more about costs, here.

What are the costs for the care worker?

The care worker will need to pay the costs of their visa fee, but you can choose to cover these costs if you prefer.

Most care workers will be eligible for a health and care visa, a subcategory of the skilled worker visa. This brings reduced visa fees and an exemption from the individual having to pay the otherwise hefty Immigration Health Surcharge. The health and care visa valid for up to three years is £247. For a visa longer than three years it’s £479.

How long does the sponsor licence application process take?

Standard processing is up to eight weeks. If the Home Office run a compliance check on your business, then your application will be delayed by several months.

You can pay an additional £500 for priority processing, which should normally bring a decision on the licence application within two weeks. Although, as of early 2023, we are seeing decisions being turned around within a matter of days.

Do I need a lawyer to apply for a sponsor licence?

Not necessarily. However, if applying on your own you will need a good attention to detail and to have a significant amount of time to devote to the cause.

You will need to get your head around the detailed Home Office guidance. We strongly recommend that you familiarise yourself with sponsor duties and compliance, or you are likely to have problems further down the line.

Furthermore, if your licence application is refused then you will be subject to a six-month ‘cooling-off period’, during which you cannot apply again and any subsequent application will receive added scrutiny.

Many individuals will prefer having experts to guide them through the process, so they properly understand sponsorship and to increase the likelihood of successfully obtaining and running a sponsor licence.

Will I be inspected by the Home Office?

Care providers have historically been a target of special attention by the Home Office and unfortunately this trend seems to persist.

We have noticed that many care providers are targeted with a remote compliance check, whereby the Home Office will request detailed information and evidence of the applicant sponsor’s HR systems, to be satisfied the sponsor can fulfil its sponsor licence compliance duties.

To read up more about sponsor licence compliance, check out our detailed guide, Sponsor Licence Compliance: A Practical Guide.

What are the visa requirements for the care worker?

The visa requirements for the care worker are relatively straightforward.

If applying for a visa from overseas, the individual will need an overseas criminal records certificate, which is valid for six months.

Individuals from certain countries will require a TB certificate, again valid for six months.

All individuals will need to satisfy the English language requirement at the time they apply for their visa.  If they are not from a recognised majority English-speaking country, nor passed the same level of English in a previous successful visa application, then they can do this by either having a degree from a UK university, a degree taught in English, or by passing an English language test at a minimum of Level B1 of the Common European Framework of References for Languages (CEFR).

If your worker is taking a test, they must do so at a Home Office-approved test centre in the UK or overseas.  A list of test centres can be found here, under the heading ‘Find an approved test’.

A final note on sponsoring within the care sector

New immigration measures were unveiled on 4 December 2023. The most relevant here is that from Spring 2024, businesses sponsoring care workers will now be subjected to regulation by the Care Quality Commission.

Additionally, dependents are banned from joining care workers, this is likely to deter highly skilled care workers from contributing to the UK.

How can I find out more about the sponsorship of care workers?

For more detailed information, check out our in-depth legal guide How to Sponsor a Care Worker from Overseas – The Ultimate Guide.

How Truth Legal can help

We always quote competitively and are upfront and transparent about what we will charge and when.  We also tend to work in stages, with each stage often attracting a fixed fee, so you can spread the cost and avoid nasty surprises.  We offer a free, no-commitment, 20-minute consultation before starting anything, so you can get to know us, and we can learn more about your business.

We’re one of very few UK solicitors who can claim to be genuine specialists, not only in the legal technicalities of the sponsorship process, but specifically sponsoring in the care sector.  We understand your business and we truly care about care. So, if you’d like to sponsor a care worker, we are best placed to advise you on this.

Do get in touch for a free, no-obligation consultation

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Catherine Reynolds
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