Non-EEA nurses urged to apply to remain in UK

Nursing being classed as 'shortage occupation' is golden opportunity for non-European Economic Area nurses to settle permanently in the UK, says RCN's immigration advice service leader

Nurses from non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries are being urged to take advantage of their profession being classed as a ‘shortage occupation’ to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK.

RCN immigration advice service leader Julie Moktadir has said many foreign nurses should not miss this golden opportunity to settle permanently in this country, which in turn could ease pressure on overstretched NHS trusts.

The decision by the Home Office in October to add nursing to the shortage occupation list means any nurse from outside the EEA who holds a tier 2 visa and has worked for more than five years can apply for ILR without having to fulfil an existing requirement to earn £35,000 to stay.

Nurses were at risk of having to leave the UK when their visa expired in 2016/17, if they did not meet the salary threshold.

But as long as their period of service in the UK covers the time nursing is on the list, non-EEA nurses can apply for ILR after five years without having to meet the salary criteria.

This is even the case for those nurses arriving in the UK now from non-EEA countries who will not be able to apply for ILR until 2020. 

The inclusion of nursing on the list is subject to a review by the Migration Advisory Committee, which is due to report on this by February.

But even if nursing were to come off the list, non-EEA nurses who have worked here while it was on the list can apply for ILR once they have served five years. 

The government has acknowledged that 48% of tier 2 visa holders are nurses.

Ms Moktadir said: 'It has always been our advice that those wishing to settle in this country apply for ILR and we fought to get nursing on the shortage occupation list precisely to help those who are already here to remain and for employers to retain their skills.’

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