Calls to cut ‘exorbitant’ immigration fees to keep overseas nurses
Thousands of people sign petition urging the government reduce unaffordable indefinite leave to remain fees due to low salaries and high cost of living
The government is urged to cut ‘exorbitant’ immigration fees for international nurses in a bid to retain desperately needed staff in the NHS.
More than 34,000 people signed a petition calling for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) fees to be reduced, with many suggesting low salaries and high living costs made it unaffordable. The Home Office has confirmed it will not reduce the fees.
Costs of a health and care visa varies, depending on its length
Healthcare workers coming to the UK from overseas must apply for a health and care visa at a cost of £232 or £464, depending on its length. They must earn a minimum of £20,480 to qualify.
Those who have been in the country for five years can apply for ILR – the right to stay and work in the UK indefinitely – at a cost of £2,404 per person.
But petitioners have called on the government to cap ILR fees at £243, or risk losing valuable nurses and other healthcare staff.
One nurse who signed the petition said she was leaving the UK for a better job offer in New Zealand because she could not raise the money, despite trying for two years.
Ever-rising cost of living means saving for fees ‘draining’
A healthcare assistant said: ‘With the ever-rising cost of living, [saving for ILR] becomes mentally draining for an already overwhelmed health worker.’
MPs yesterday called on the government to reduce the fee, warning that the NHS would ‘collapse’ without internationally trained staff.
Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi said: ‘Despite broad agreement that there is obvious need in our overstretched health and care sector for overseas professionals, the current system is failing to retain these key workers. The expensive, drawn-out ILR process is pushing many key workers away.’
Harder for overseas nurses to take time away from work
Meanwhile, the minimum salary requirement makes it harder for overseas nurses to take time away from work for personal reasons. And those without ILR cannot claim taxpayer-funded benefits such as universal credit, child benefit and carer’s allowance.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said the Home Office does not profit from ILR fees and that most of the cost went towards processing the application, alongside funding the wider cost of running the UK borders system.
A Home Office spokesperson added: ‘We deeply value all NHS workers, but the Home Office must be fair to everyone in the immigration system. The offers we have made are generous and reflect the outstanding contribution of those working in our NHS, but we will not be reducing the fee for indefinite leave to remain.’
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