• Exemption had been due to end in July 2019
  • Home Office stresses extension will be “temporary”

Nurses and other NHS workers will continue to be exempt from the minimum salary requirement for a tier 2 visa, the Home Office has confirmed.

Under tier 2 visas, which are given to skilled workers from outside the EEA, individuals are usually required to meet the minimum income requirement of £30,000 a year. However, the exception means nurses, paramedics and medical radiographers only need to meet a lower salary of £20,800.

The lower salary was first brought in following Migration Advisory Committee advice in 2016 and was due to end in July 2019.

The Home Office stressed this extension will be “temporary” and will be reviewed ahead of the new immigration system, which is due to come in after January 2021.

The government said the extension is in recognition of the need to attract overseas nurses to manage growing demand on the NHS.

Home secretary Sajid Javid said: “I am committed to an immigration system which attracts skilled workers and ensures employers have access to the skills they need, whilst bringing net migration down to sustainable levels.

“That is why I removed doctors and nurses from the tier 2 cap last year to ensure the NHS had access to the workers it needs, and it’s why I am now maintaining the minimum salary exemption for the NHS and schools so they can continue to hire experienced nurses, paramedics and teachers from abroad.”

Mr Javid announced last summer the visa cap would be lifted for doctors and nurses from outside the EU, meaning there is no restriction on the numbers of clinicians who can be employed through the Tier 2 visa route.

The government is currently consulting on the salary threshold for workers with “intermediate skills”. The MAC recommended a salary of £30,000 but experts warned the government needs to “fund wage increases or make special provision for health and care”, when deciding on the new immigration system.

Royal College of Nursing acting chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair said, without this decision, ministers risked ”shutting the door on international nurses who are vital for keeping our health and care services running at a time when staffing shortages are already extensive”.

She said: “The government must now recognise the value of nurses and the care they give patients by developing a fully funded UK-wide workforce strategy, backed by legislation, to increase nursing numbers for safe and effective care.”