​​​​​​​New fast-track NHS Visa

We will introduce a new NHS Visa, offering a fast-track entry to the UK for qualified overseas doctors and nurses under more generous terms. 


  • We want to ensure that after Brexit the hardworking doctors and nurses which the NHS relies on are able to come here easily to work and provide high-quality care.


  • A new NHS Visa will provide a 3-5 year work visa with a fast-track decision, a larger dedicated advice service for applicants, and reduced upfront fees.


  • This visa will form part of our new Australia-style points-based immigration system, as we take back control of our borders after leaving the EU. In contrast, Labour would allow uncontrolled and unlimited immigration.




  • Rising demand on the NHS and a shortfall of key clinical staff can only be addressed with a sensible work visa system that prioritises migrants with the skills that the UK needs. Last year we had 2,021 EEA and 5,270 Rest of World (RoW) doctors, and 968 EEA and 6,157 RoW nurses joining the health system. We are keen that we continue to attract such talent.[1]


  • The NHS already plans to expand its international recruitment efforts over the next five years to meet growing gaps, as set out in its Interim People Plan. Our new immigration system must therefore continue to attract nurses, doctors and allied health professionals to enter the UK to work in our NHS. [2]  


Our solution


  • As part of wider changes to introduce an Australian-style points-based immigration system, we will reform the work visa route and create a dedicated NHS Visa exclusively for skilled staff applying to work in the NHS in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. Three main roles will be included: qualified doctors, nurses and allied health professionals. This new visa will make it easier for the majority of doctors and nurses to come to work in our NHS.


  • Our new NHS Visa will be a permanent feature of the new points-based immigration system. Extra points will be awarded if you come to the UK to work in the NHS, in recognition of the special contribution that such employees make. The visa will be tied to NHS employment and geared around filling acute job shortages in the NHS.


  • We will launch the NHS Visa before the new immigration system comes into operation in 2021. Pending expert advice, we intend to ensure salary limits will allow all NHS Visa applicants, including junior nurses and allied health professionals, to migrate here.


  • There will be no cap on the number of qualified applicants who can migrate to the UK via the NHS Visa route, and the visa can be valid for up to five years. Those who are accepted would have to remain in NHS employment. Other features of this new NHS Visa will include reduced fees, a dedicated advice service and faster decisions, and Immigration Health Surcharge payment support.


Conservative record


  • We have already removed doctors and nurses from the cap on skilled worker visas. There is now no restriction on the numbers of doctors and nurses who can be employed through the Tier 2 visa route – allowing us to recruit more international NHS staff to provide outstanding patient care when required.[3]


  • Since we removed the cap, the number of skilled health care workers applying to work in the UK has increased by 54 per cent. In 2018 there was a 54 per cent increase in applications in the Human Health and Social Work activities sector, which is likely due to the removal of doctors and nurses from the Tier 2 cap.[4]


  • We are developing a fast-track visa route for scientists to attract elite researchers and specialists in science, engineering and technology. The new immigration route will ensure the UK is the most attractive country to live in and develop new ideas.[5]
  • We are allowing international graduates to stay in the UK for two years after graduating to help them find a job. International students who have successfully completed a degree from a trusted UK university or higher education provider will be able to stay in the UK for two years to find work.[6]



Q. Why aren’t we training more nurses here?

Since its founding, the NHS has always relied on overseas workers and it is vital to continue to recruit talent from abroad. However, we are also investing in training British workers for key healthcare roles.


Q. What about social care?

There are wider complexities around the labour gap in the social care sector which will be addressed as part of our plans to introduce the future immigration system.


Q: Are you abandoning the salary floor so you can hire more nurses from abroad on lower wages?

Nursing roles are already on the shortage occupation list until 2021, meaning there is currently no salary floor. We will look into extending this as we develop our Australian-style points system. Pending expert advice, we intend to ensure any salary limits applying in the future system will continue to allow all NHS Visa applicants, including newly-qualified nurses, to migrate here.


[1] GMC, The state of medical education and practice in the UK, December 2019, link; NMC, The NMC Register, 31 March 2019, link.

[2] NHS Improvement, Interim NHS People Plan, 3 June 2019, link.

[3] Home Office, News Story, 15 June 2018, link.

[4] Home Office, Why do people come to the UK? To work, 28 February 2019, link.

[5] Prime Minister’s Office, Press Release, 8 August 2019, link.

[6] Prime Minister’s Office, News Story, 11 September 2019, link.