THOUSANDS of Zimbabweans hoping to work in the United Kingdom’s health and social care sectors face an uncertain future after the British government announced new visa restrictions to stem the flow of migrants into that country.
In recent years, the UK has relied heavily on foreign workers, especially from Zimbabwe, India, and Nigeria, to fill critical staffing shortages in its healthcare system.
However, a recent surge in immigration has prompted the British government to tighten the screws.
On Monday, British Home Secretary James Cleverly announced a plan to slash migration levels and curb abuse of the immigration system.
“The government will tighten the health and care visa, which has seen a significant number of visas granted to care workers and their dependants, by preventing overseas care workers from bringing their dependants to the UK,” he said.
Under the new rules, which come into effect next year, skilled workers will need to earn a minimum of £38 700 (US$48 900) to qualify for a visa, up from the current £26 200 (US$33 000).
Cleverly said during the year ending September 2023, 101 000 health and care visas were issued to care workers and senior care workers, with an estimated 120 000 visas granted to associated dependants.
“It is clear that net migration remains far too high. By leaving the European Union, we gained control over who can come to the UK, but far more must be done to bring those numbers down so British workers are not undercut and our public services put under less strain,” he said.
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“My plan will deliver the biggest ever reduction in net migration and will mean around 300 000 people who came to the UK last year would not have been able to do so. I am taking decisive action to halt the drastic rise in our work visa routes and crack down on those who seek to take advantage of our hospitality.”
In the first half of this year, the United Kingdom granted 20 000 work visas to Zimbabwean emigrants in the health and care sector.
The figure represented a 372% increase from last year as locals continue to flee the country in search of a better life abroad.