Health care and services are always hot issue and are discussed, praised and criticised by its providers and recipients all over the UK. The Health department has been experiencing shortage of qualified professionals since long time and there is a pressing need for competent professionals who could provide health services in an efficient, prompt and professional manner. Currently the average time taken by a local hospital, to deal an emergency is approximately two hours, which is a life-taking wait for someone who is in severe pain and urgently requires attention of a professional.
In recognition of the present health care issues, the Home office has made some efforts to attract overseas professionals to the UK by introducing new immigration regulations. The intention is to offer an opportunity to the overseas professionals to get them registered with the concerned councils or societies in order to be eligible to work as the UK professionals. Following are the immigration categories currently existing and available for overseas qualified Doctors or dentists:
- Leave to enter / remain for Post graduate doctors, Dentists and trainee general practitioners
- Leave to enter / remain to take PLAB Test
- Leave to enter / remain for Clinical Attachment or a Dental Observer post
A number of overseas doctors / dentists have made use of the above-mentioned immigration categories and have now settled down in the UK. This has helped a lot in terms of provision of health services in the UK but still there has been a need for other qualified persons as well, who work with the Doctors / dentists. They are qualified nurses and midwives; without their presence the doctors / dentists are unable to provide full services.
A new program has been launched i.e. Overseas Nursing Program (ONP) that has given one more route to the qualified nurses and midwives to come to the UK and work in the UK without making a work permit application. The applicant can now apply either under the current regulations for registration with NMC or apply under the new regulations of the ONP. After 01st of September 2006, it would be compulsory for every applicant to come through the procedure given by ONP.
Previously only one option was available to overseas-qualified nurses to come to the UK and that is work permit. Now the Home Office has provided a permit free route for the overseas nurses and midwives although a work permit option is still available to them. Under this program the qualified nurses who are eligible for registration with the NMC (Nursing & Midwifery Council) need to attend 20 days protected learning in order to get acquainted with the UK health care practice. In addition to that the NMC may require them to undertake a supervised practice in a setting that has been audited and quality assured by an education provider approved by NMC.
It lies on the NMC to decide that whether a particular applicant requires to do a supervised practice or just attendance of 20 days protected learning course would be sufficient for registration of that individual. If NMC decides that a 20 days session is enough for an individual for registration and that person has got an offer of an employment then, the applicant`s employer can make a work permit application in the usual manner. The applicant needs either to apply for leave to enter or for leave to remain that depends on where the applicant is residing at the time of work permit application.
If the NMC decides that a particular applicant is required to complete a supervised practice in addition to the 20 days session, and that individual has got a job offer the individual should opt for the permit free route.
Settlement Route for Overseas Nurses / Midwives
Permit Free Route
The permit free route is the one that does not require the employer of the applicant to apply work permit. The work permit is an application that can only be made by the employer of the applicant while the permit free route is available for the individual to make an application.
- Who Can Qualify?
Any overseas qualified nurse / midwife can apply for this immigration category if he fulfils all the criteria mentioned below:
- That he has obtained confirmation from the Nursing and Midwifery Council that he is eligible
- For admission to the ONP; or
- To undertake a period of supervised practice; or
- To undertake an adaptation programme leading to registration as a midwife;
- Has been offered
- A supervised practice placement through an education provider that is recognized by the Nursing and midwifery council; or
- A supervised practice placement in a setting approved by the Nursing and Mdiwfery Coucil; or
- A midwifery adaptation programme placement in a setting approved by the NMC;
- Is able and intend to undertake the above mentioned programmes; and
- Does not engage in business or take employment, except;
- In connection with the above mentioned programmes; or
- Part time work of a similar nature to the work undertaken on the supervised practice placement or midwife adaptation programme; and
- Is able to maintain and accommodate himself and any dependants without recourse to public funds.
- Duration of Visa
The applicants are normally issued a visa for the duration of supervised practice programme / midwifery adaptation programme; however the applicants can certainly apply for an extension of leave to remain provided the aggregate amount of time that they would spend in the UK should not exceed 18 months.
- Work Allowed
The overseas nurses / midwives are allowed to do full time employment in connection with their placement. In addition to that they are also allowed to take part time employments in their respective professions.
- What is not allowed?
Participants of this programme are not allowed to engage themselves in Business or self-employment without seeking permission from the Home Office. They cannot legally become a partner / sole proprietor / Director in a business.
- Spouse / Children
Participants of this programme can always invite their spouse / children to join them as their dependants during the time of their placement programme provided they could support their families without recourse to public funds. The spouse will be allowed to work if the participant is given leave to enter / remain in the UK for 12 months or more.
- Switching Rules
Individuals living in the UK in one of the following immigration categories can switch to the ONP:
- Prospective Students
- Student Nurses
- Working Holiday Makers who have lived in the UK for 12 months or more.
Unlike the other switching rules students are not required to complete a degree level education in order to switch to ONP.
The participants of ONP, however, are allowed to switch to work permit while remaining in the UK.
- Settlement Prospects
There is only one option available for participants of this programme in order to get permanent settlement in the UK i.e. Work permit employment for 5 years. If a participant of this programme switches to work permit employment and continues in such employment for 5 years, then he can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. Unfortunately the time period that is spent under the ONP is not included for settlement purposes and the time would start from the date of leave to remain / enter given in line with the work permit.