Skills for Care

This page explains our policy position on recruiting care workers from abroad - and sets out what we want to see, the current situation and solutions.

What do we want to see?

Recruiting internationally is one of the solutions that some adult social care employers use to address ongoing workforce capacity challenges.

We don't take a position on the appropriate level of international recruitment, but, regardless of the level, it must always be carried out in a legal and ethical manner. If it remains a major part of the solution to workforce capacity, providers need to be supported to recruit staff from abroad in way that meets the needs of those people when they arrive and are in post.

The current situation

In February 2022, care workers were added to the shortage occupation list and the health and care worker visa route.

Between April 2022 and March 2023, around 70,000 people were recruited from abroad into direct care-providing roles. Home Office figures show that around 58,000 received skilled worker visas after adult social care was added to the shortage occupation list in February 2022. Others will have arrived in the UK via other routes such as family permits.

The level of international recruitment has contributed to the rate of new starters increasing from 32% to 34% in the independent sector between 2021-22 and 2021-23. At the same time, the turnover rate in the independent sector 2decreased from 32% to 30%. Early evidence from our data suggests the turnover rate for international recruits was around half that of people recruited from within the UK. 

Employers tell us that international recruitment is supporting them with short-term capacity issues but that the process can be complicated to understand, the cost can often be prohibitive and they're concerned about recruiting ethically.

International recruitment is also open to abuse. According to figures from the government-approved anti-slavery helpline, the number of modern slavery cases reported in the UK care sector between January and March 2023 was double the number for the same period in 2022.

There is no single body with overall control over the whole system. The Home Office and UK Visas and Immigration lead on the immigration and visa aspects, while the Department of Health and Social Care leads on the workforce supply agenda and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on overseas issues.

There are a number of other key players including the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and a range of bodies within the care sector, including the Care Quality Commission (regulation) and Skills for Care. 

There's a need to develop more joined-up thinking and ways of sharing data from various sources to identify trends and any developing issues in international recruitment.



There needs to be greater coordination between all the bodies responsible for elements of international recruitment, to provide national oversight.

The elements and solutions lie in three areas:


Responsible agencies working together to prevent abuse of the visa system through an effective approach to the issuing of visas and the vetting of applications.


National oversight means all the bodies involved in the system coming together to share their data and expertise, to ensure that issues like abuse of workers are identified and dealt with appropriately including detection of ‘bad actors’ operating in this space.


We need to ensure that the right types of systems and support are in place to enable employers to recruit safely, ethically and effectively.

As part of our role, Skills for Care provides sector leadership, sector insight and guidance to enable the development of measures to mitigate the risks of bad practice among employers and potential abuse of international recruits by ‘bad actors’. 

If care workers remain on the shortage occupation list, Skills for Care is committed to playing a central role, including sharing feedback from employers, in providing support to adult social care providers to recruit from abroad and to always do that ethically.