Some migrants could be prevented from nursing in the UK
Proposed rise in salary threshold means only senior nurses from overseas could secure jobs in UK
Changes to the amount a migrant needs to earn in order to nurse in the UK could rise by almost £10,000, if a proposal by the government’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is implemented.
The RCN has expressed concern about the recommendation to raise the minimum pay threshold for a Tier 2 migrant from its current level of £20,800 to £30,000. This would put migration to the UK out of reach for any band 5 nurse.
The MAC's report shows that, based on current application data, nursing would be the occupation most affected by the £30,000 threshold.
The government commissioned the committee to advise on potential changes to Tier 2, which would address concerns about the rising number of migrants and the reliance on them to fill shortages in the labour market.
RCN senior international adviser Susan Williams said that because nursing is currently on the shortage occupation list (a list of jobs for which there is a shortage of workers in the UK), nurses get priority when applying for a Tier 2 visa.
But she warned: 'The MAC proposal will affect nurses from outside the European Union (EU) applying to work in this country whether nursing stays on the shortage occupation list or not.
'Even if the recommendation is phased in – and it is not clear how this will be done – public sector pay restraint will make it extremely difficult for employers to get enough nurses from outside the EU.'
RCN head of policy and international Howard Catton said: 'The government must be coordinated on this issue. If the minimum salary threshold is increased by the home office without an assurance from the Department of Health that nursing pay will also rise, health care organisations will be unable to fill vacancies.'
NHS Providers director of policy and strategy Saffron Cordery said more importance should be given to 'an individual’s broader contribution to the UK’ rather than their salary when applications for work visas are considered.
The government has commissioned the MAC separately to look at whether there is a national shortage of nurses, and the committee will report to the government next month.