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Foreign worker visas crackdown 'under close review', says Number 10 with a week to go before new restrictions

A crackdown on foreign worker visas is “under close review”, Downing Street said on Monday, following fears that hundreds of new care providers have been granted licences by the Home Office to sponsor staff from abroad.

New laws that will restrict health workers from bringing family to the UK and require care providers to register with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) if they are sponsoring migrants come into force on March 11.

The government hopes the measures will bring down record levels of immigration to Britain.

However, concerns have been raised about suspected fake companies sponsoring visas after hundreds of licences were reportedly granted to firms that are just a few months old and have no history of providing care.

At least 268 companies that have never been inspected by the CQC have also been granted licences to sponsor workers from abroad, an investigation by the Observer found.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said further visa crackdowns are “under close review”.

"Next week robust changes to curb abuse of the migration system come into force,” he said.

“These measures will restrict care workers from bringing independents and require care providers to register with the care quality commission if they are sponsoring migrants.

“As with all our policies we keep them under close review."

He added: "We have taken robust action to crackdown on the misuse of the visa immigration system and obviously we will keep further measures under close review."

It comes as a record number of foreign health and care workers were issued UK visas last year, figures released last week revealed.

While 146,477 applicants were granted permission to come on health visas in 2023, when dependants were taken into account the figure rose to a total of 349,929.

This is up from 157,636 in 2022 and 63,291 in 2021.

Charities warned that the Government was “unwilling” to address low pay in the health sector, leaving migrant workers open to exploitation.

The number of people living in the UK on a work visa was also at an 18-year high, with 600,000 issued last year.

The Home Office said the rise has been “largely driven” by care workers and home carers.

Last year the Government announced that there would be a wave of new restrictions on people coming to Britain, and their family members, in a bid to bring down legal immigration.

They are:

  • Reforms to restrict care workers from bringing family members to the UK will come into force on March 11.

  • Measures requiring care providers to register with the Care Quality Commission if they are sponsoring migrants will start on the same date.

  • An increase to the minimum salary required for those arriving on a Skilled Worker Visa, from £26,200 to £38,700, will start from April 4.

  • The minimum income threshold for those bringing dependents to the UK on family visas will increase in stages starting on April 11. From this date workers will need to be earning at least £29,000-a-year to bring a family member from abroad - up from £18,600

The policy has been slammed by opposition politicians, including London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who said it will place an “already-stretched” NHS and social care system under more pressure.