Thousands of overseas nurses on student nurse visas could be illegally staying in the UK. The nurses have come to this country for adaptation training or Supervised Placement on the Overseas Nurses Programme (ONP), which is run by the NMC in conjunction with universities, hospitals, and nursing homes.
The problem is that there are insufficient places for all the nurses currently in the UK. Last year Immigration Matters reported that up to 37000 nurses were in the UK seeking adaptation places, at a time when only a fraction of training places were actually available. As nurses are given visas to enter the UK on the understanding that they have a training place, this problem should not arise.
The reality is that many are promised training places which fail to materialise or are told to wait several months upon arrival. Unscrupulous agents and fixers also create bogus places, for which they charge exorbitant fees, leaving nurses to fend for themselves once they arrive in the UK. I have seen numerous cases of nurses from India, Nigeria and The Philippines who paid large sums of money to overseas agents for supervised placements or adaptation places which do not exist.
Student Nurse Visa is not the same as a Student Visa
Many nurses and employers make the mistake of thinking that a student nurse visa is the same as a student visa. This is not the case and there are a number of crucial differences between the two.
Student nurse visas are issued by entry clearance officers on the basis that they have been accepted for training as a student nurse or midwife leading to a registered nursing qualification; or an overseas nurse or midwife who has been accepted on an adaptation course leading to registration as a nurse. In other words, they have a place on course and are entering the UK to take up that place.
Once they have completed the programme and obtained their NMC PIN, they are normally allowed to switch to a work permit as a registered nurse.
The immigration rules are unclear and confusing about what happens to student nurses who find themselves stranded without a training place (see http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk). Switching into other immigration categories used to be relatively straightforward, before ‘switching’ rules were tightened in 2004.
I called the Home Office enquiry line today to ask if a student nurse could switch to an ordinary student visa. The person, who called herself Ramona, said:
“Student visa holders may switch into a student visa category whilst in the UK”
I then asked if the person could apply to do something like an NVQ4 course. She then added the following:
“If the course is at degree level they can switch whilst in country, otherwise they need to return to their country to apply for entry clearance”
In our experience, student nurses have had mixed results when trying to switch visas to other categories and Home Office decisions have been erratic.
We come across many nurses who are either working as Carers in nursing homes or have taken up NVQ 3 or 4 courses whilst working part-time in nursing homes. Most have not changed their visa status.
What should you do if you find yourself in this position?
First, don’t sit there worrying – take advice from an OISC registered adviser.
Second, keep searching for that elusive adaptation place.
Finally, never let your current visa expire.
For regular immigration updates see http://www.immigrationmatters.co.uk
For further information on Student Visas, see www.visas4students.com
If you should have any questions or views you would like to express concerning Work Permit, Visa Extensions, Leave to Remain please email Charles Kelly email@example.com.
I will be speaking on: “Are You Employing Staff Illegally?” at:
The Care Show – NEC 25th October 2006