Expat nurses in UK face being sent home under new settlement rules

by Ray Clancy on June 26, 2015

Thousands of expat nurses working in the UK face having to return home under new immigration changes brought in by the government because they do not earn enough to stay.

The National Health Service (NHS) recruits hundreds of nurses from abroad every year, many of them from the Philippines and other Asian countries.


The National Health Service (NHS) recruits hundreds of nurses from abroad every year, many from the Philippines and other Asian countries.

But under new rules people from outside the European Economic Area must be earning at least £35,000 a year to stay in the UK after six years, yet many nurses earn less than this, around £21,000 to £28,000.

According to the Royal College of Nursing, not only will it be a catastrophe for the highly trained nurses involved but could also compromise patient safety and cost the health service millions.

The RCN says the rules will force many nurses to return to their home countries, leaving hospitals with nothing to show for the millions of pounds spent on recruiting them, with the effects of the new rules being felt from 2017.

RCN research shows that if international recruitment stays the same as it is now, by 2020 the number of nurses affected by the threshold will be 6,620 and if workforce pressures force a higher rate of international recruitment, the number of nurses affected could be 29,755.

The nursing organisation is calling on the UK government to add nursing to the list of shortage occupations and to reconsider the £35,000 salary threshold for the changes.

Dr. Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, described the situation as completely illogical. ‘The UK will be sending away nurses who have contributed to the health service for six years,’ he said.

‘Losing their skills and knowledge and then having to start the cycle again and recruit to replace them is completely illogical. NHS trusts are being asked to provide safe staffing with both hands tied behind their backs. Without a change to these immigration rules the NHS will continue to pay millions of pounds to temporarily rent nurses from overseas,’ he added.

He pointed out that the RCN submitted detailed, extensive and unambiguous evidence to the Migration Advisory Committee. ‘Unfortunately, this advice was not heeded, despite the clear evidence of a serious shortage of staff in the nursing profession, and the impact this is having on patients. The RCN is now repeating its call to add nursing to the shortage occupation list,’ said Dr. Carter.

‘These illogical immigration rules for health care workers will cause chaos for the NHS and other care services who are already struggling to hire and retain skilled health professionals. Steadfastly refusing to revisit nursing as a shortage occupation profession does nothing to improve things in the short term, he concluded.

A Home Office spokesman said the rules were changed to break the link between coming to work in the UK and staying permanently. ‘There are exemptions to this threshold for occupations where the UK has a shortage but the independent Migration Advisory Committee recommended against adding nurses to the Shortage Occupation List after taking evidence from groups including the Royal College of Nursing,’ he added.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Colin Guest June 29, 2015 at 9:03 am

The situation related to living in England on a less salary than that required by the government, is I think a good one as it should restrict the amount of people who enter the UK with no means of supporting themselves and who rely on the government to support them. Why the British people should have to pay taxes which in part is used to support many people entering the country from outside of the country, is to me unacceptable. In Turkey where I live as an English expat, the Turkish government gives me nothing, with the law being that if you cannot support yourself, you are not allowed to stay living in the country. This I think should also apply in England, which I feel sure most English people will agree with.


Paul January 19, 2016 at 3:41 pm

Colin. The issue is people coming to UK from other EU countries. My wife just moved here from USA. She now has to pay for NHS and does not receive any benefits from the UK government. That is the rules for immigration from none EU countries. Please research your facts before you throw everyone in the same pile.


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