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Skilled worker visa holders have the right to buy, but is there appetite to lend? – Sneddon

by: Laura Sneddon, head of mortgages at Hinckley and Rugby Building Society
  • 10/06/2024
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Skilled worker visa holders have the right to buy, but is there appetite to lend? – Sneddon
‘A skilled worker visa holder’s home is their castle’ may not have much of a ring to it, but we can all appreciate the sentiment.

It’s the yearning to call a house a home, and is an ingrained part of the British psyche. And when skilled foreign workers make the life-changing decision to bring their much-needed skills to the UK, many share that desire. 

So what’s stopping them? 

Quite simply, it appears to be a lack of appetite on the part of most UK lenders to support them. But why should that be? Prior to recently launching its own mortgages for skilled worker and health and care worker visa holders, Hinckley and Rugby Building Society had asked itself that very question.   

 

Skilled workers laying down roots 

After all, holders of a skilled worker visa earn a minimum annual salary of £38,700 – higher than the average UK income. It’s a lower minimum for health and care worker visa holders, but that’s because it covers a wide range of healthcare professions, from care workers to surgeons.  

But certainly, for many such visa holders affordability is not an issue. 

Perhaps it’s the word ‘visa’ that puts off many lenders from supporting this worthy section of our society? And we must surely recognise, by the way, that skilled foreign workers are indeed a valuable part of UK society: with almost 20% of NHS staff not being UK nationals, it’s fair to suggest that the NHS would grind to a halt without them.  

But perhaps the word ‘visa’ communicates an impression of temporariness – like a visit – that the inflexible minds of many UK lenders are simply unwilling to engage with. 

The thing is, though, it’s actually a residency permit and it is granted for up to five years. And although some will naturally return to their own fair shores upon the visa’s expiration, many others extend for a further five years and beyond.  

In fact, government statistics for skilled worker and health and care worker visas granted during 2023, tell us that around 228,000 new visas were granted to main applicants (plus 255,000 to dependents) as well as around 173,000 visa extensions (plus 130,000 to dependents).  

Many of them go on to settle permanently in the UK.  

So for many, there is nothing at all temporary about their new life here. And owning their own home – their castle – is a natural part of the plan. 

And nobody likes waiting. 

 

Options for visa holders 

Unfortunately, of the limited number of lenders that are willing to listen, most tend to place all sorts of barriers and restrictions in the way.  

Hinckley and Rugby has torn those barriers down with a ‘Big Three No Minimum’ pledge on income, time in the UK, and time left on the visa. In essence, it gives these visa holders the opportunity to own their own home based on affordability and common sense, not on how much they earn or how long they have lived here.  

And to help further, the mutual uniquely offers applicants up to 95% loan to value. 

With constant pressure on the rental market, which in some areas is nearing breaking point, there is no logical reason to deny home financing to professionals who meet affordability criteria and have made a commitment to a new life within our society. 

Whether teaching our children or caring for our elderly, they are as vital to the national interest and as much a part of that society as you or me, and as deserving of the same opportunities. 

 

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