The NHS has spent £20 million on hiring overseas nurses temporarily, says RCN

In response to the Migration Advisory Committee's call for evidence on minimum salary thresholds for tier 2 visas, the RCN warns that increasing the threshold will result in up to 3,365 overseas nurses being sent home in 2017

Up to 3,365 nurses from outside the European Economic Area currently working in the UK could be forced to return home under new immigration rules, despite £20 million being spent on their recruitment.

That is the stark message from the RCN in response to the Migration Advisory Committee’s call for evidence on minimum salary thresholds for tier 2 visas.

Tier 2 of the points-based system is the primary route for economic migration to the UK.

The consultation, which closed last week, explored the viability of plans to increase the various levels of tier 2 minimum salary thresholds.  These vary depending on whether people fall into the general, short term or long-term category, for example.

Under Home Office rules, from April next year most Tier 2 visa immigrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) must be earning £35,000 or more to qualify for permanent residency in the UK.

This means non-EEA nurses will need to earn £35,000 or more if they want to stay in the UK for more than six years.

The RCN calculates that up to 3,365 nurses who have been working in the UK since April 2011 might be required to leave in 2017.

In its response to the consultation, it says: ‘This not only denudes the NHS and independent sector of experienced nurses, but it also makes no economic sense. It will have cost approximately £20,190,000 to recruit those 3,365 nurses.’

It calls on the committee to revisit the evidence available and the wider UK and global trends in relation to nursing shortages, and to add nursing on the list of occupations where there is a shortage.

It also asks for an amendment to immigration rules that prevent internationally recruited nurses from applying for indefinite leave to remain if they are not earning £35,000.

It says any increase in the minimum salary threshold will ‘target band 5 and 6 especially hard’ as their salary range is between £21,692 and £34,876. This is because of the decline of higher paid grades such as band 7 and 8, which resulted in band 5 and 6 accounting for 79% of the nursing and midwifery workforce in 2013.

The college says the government’s current focus on recruitment from the European Union is not sustainable because the ‘retention of EEA nurses is challenging’.

It states: ‘Changes to the minimum salary thresholds will have the most profound impact on this professional group, making it much harder for UK employers to ethically recruit nurses from non-EEA countries.'

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