Unpacking the Crucial 20-Hour Cap Exemption for the Health and Care Visa in the UK


The Health and Care Visa provides a streamlined immigration route for healthcare professionals to work in the UK. One of its most beneficial features is an exemption from the standard 20-hour/week work limit for secondary jobs. This allows greater flexibility for healthcare workers to take on extra shifts when needed. In this blog, we’ll explore key questions about how the 20-hour cap exemption affects healthcare assistants and other medical staff in the UK.

The Health and Care Visa: A Specialist Route for Medical Professionals

The Health and Care Visa provides a dedicated UK immigration pathway for doctors, nurses, midwives, and various other health professionals from overseas. Introduced in 2020, this visa aims to streamline and expedite immigration for medical talent filling NHS staff shortages.

With over 165,000 vacancies across England’s health service, overseas recruitment is crucial to maintaining safe staff-to-patient ratios. The Health and Care Visa brings various advantages over traditional work visas to attract qualified foreign health personnel including:

  • Faster, Priority Visa Processing Times
  • Reduced Application Fees
  • Exemption from Immigration Health Surcharge
  • Innovative 20-Hour Cap Exemption for Secondary Work

Collectively, these benefits incentivise immigration for roles spanning medicine, nursing, midwifery, therapy, testing, and support services.

The visa also aims to incentivise longer-term retention by permitting dependants and providing a pathway to settlement after 5 years of meeting certain conditions. With flexibility for additional work hours through its 20-hour cap exemption, the Health and Care Visa empowers overseas staff to help confront workforce crises threatening UK healthcare quality.

You can find out more here about the documents you need to have to apply, how much it costs, and how it affects your partner and children.

How Does the Exemption Impact Healthcare Assistants on the Health and Care Visa?

The 20-hour cap exemption allows healthcare assistants, nurses, doctors, and other medical personnel on the Health and Care Visa to work more than 20 hours per week in additional jobs in the health sector.

Normally, most UK work visas limit employees to 20 hours maximum in a second job. But for crucial healthcare roles, even junior positions like healthcare assistants, this strict limit was problematic for staffing flexibility.

The exemption now permits healthcare assistants to take on extra shifts above 20 hours weekly in second healthcare jobs without needing an updated visa. This helps facilities like hospitals rapidly fill last-minute rota gaps.


Health and care visa

Which Healthcare Roles Does the Exemption Cover?

The 20-hour cap exemption broadly applies to all common medical occupations requiring Health and Care Visa sponsorship, including:

  • Doctors and dentists
  • Nurses
  • Midwives
  • Paramedics
  • Healthcare assistants
  • Other patient care or ancillary staff

As healthcare assistants provide essential intimate care to bedridden and vulnerable residents, maintaining assistant staff levels is vital. The 20-hour exemption enables reinforcements whenever unexpected shortages arise.

What Are Normal Health and Care Visa Work Restrictions?

Generally, the Health and Care Visa limits recipients to only 20 hours per week in additional jobs outside their sponsored occupation. Any secondary work above 20 hours requires an updated visa.

This standard restriction intends to ensure employees focus the majority of their working time on the sponsored health occupation outlined in their original visa certification.

However, to increase NHS workforce flexibility, registered doctors along with most other registered health professionals can now utilise the invaluable 20-hour cap exemption.

How Does This Exemption Offer More Flexibility?

The 20-hour cap exemption delivers exceptional workforce flexibility within the healthcare sector for several key reasons:

  1. Permits additional NHS bank/agency shifts – Workers can cover open shifts at short notice across multiple hospitals since additional health job hours are unlimited.
  2. Allows career development with training courses/fellowships – Recipients can upskill via intense courses exceeding 20 hours/week without jeopardising visa status.
  3. Reduces staffing crisis risks – With an exemption in place, ongoing retirements, and resignations pose less risk to consistent, safe staff ratios across wards if remaining staff clock extra hours.

In a field where unexpected leave and fluctuating patient admission levels complicate scheduling, the cap exemption is invaluable both for providers and professionals seeking better work-life balance.

Health and Care Visa Assistants Deliver Flexibility

Here at Cucumber Recruitment, we help connect exceptional healthcare assistants from around the globe to facilities across the UK in need of these essential care professionals. Our Health and Care Visa resources expedite visa acquisition so assistants arrive with 20-hour cap exemptions ready to provide critical roster reinforcements whenever shortages emerge.

Discover how Cucumber Recruitment can ensure your healthcare business has sufficient support staff despite growing attrition and ever-changing demands. Contact us today for a free consultation on sourcing first-rate healthcare assistants fully equipped to provide maximum scheduling flexibility.

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