Career advice

Non-EU nurses face early exit

New government rules could lead to a skills drain of valuable nursing staff from overseas.

Clive Banzon came to the UK from the Philippines in April 2012, but is likely to be told to leave in a couple of years.

Picture credit: Alamy

This is because the UK government is introducing new rules for non-European Union workers who want to stay here permanently, effective from April 2016.

No one in the ‘tier two’ category of workers – mostly graduates in ‘general’ occupations – will be allowed to settle if they are earning less than £35,000 after being here for five years. Mr Banzon is a cardiac nurse at Watford General Hospital and earns £30,000. His five years are up in April 2017 and he is worried that his salary will not hit £35,000 by that date.

‘It seems unfair,’ he says. ‘I feel there is a mutually beneficial partnership between nurses like me and the NHS. We benefit by having a good salary and we help the NHS. But the partnership is being ended and we are dispensable.’

Home secretary Theresa May has introduced the legislation to cut the number of immigrants settling in the UK. She believes it will reduce the number of non-Europeans granted settlement from 60,000 to 20,000 a year.

Philippine Nurses’ Association UK president Michael Duque says that good nurses will be lost and staffing shortages will worsen. ‘Nurses need to be band 7, point 30 to qualify. The minimum annual salary cut-off is unclear about whether this includes overtime or unsocial hours. The policy would create discontent in the immigrant sector as well as vacuums in the affected occupations.’

RCN’s south Birmingham branch is proposing a resolution at RCN congress later this month calling on the government to scrap the changes. Branch chair Tracey Budding, a senior neonatal sister at Birmingham Women’s NHS Foundation Trust, says: ‘This legislation is crazy. It will devastate individual nurses’ lives, and there are already issues around staffing levels.’

Some shortage occupations, including neonatal nurses, are exempt from the rules (see box). However, in February the government’s Migration Advisory Committee reviewed the list and concluded that specialist neonatal nurses should be removed, except in Scotland, because there is no longer a national shortage.

Computer games designer.

Neonatal nurse.

Old age psychiatrist.

Maths teacher.

Ballet dancer.

Orchestral musician (strings).


Oil/gas geologist.

Tunnelling engineer.

No other nursing disciplines should be included, the committee said. Adult nurses are not in short supply because most vacancies are caused by ‘recruitment freezes and redundancies, with employers keeping posts unfilled to keep costs down’.

The Home Office has not yet ruled on these recommendations. But in the meantime nurses such as Mr Banzon are bracing themselves. He says: ‘I may go to a country like Canada that is friendlier to nurses’.

This article is for subscribers only