The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has raised concerns about how new immigration rules for staff coming to the UK from outside of the EU will impact on NHS recruitment.
From April 2015, skilled workers will need to be earning £35,000 annually within five years of arriving in the UK in order to remain in the country.
Previously, five years’ residence was normally sufficient to obtain the right to remain in Britain as a skilled worker, but the new rule has been introduced as part of the Government’s policy to reduce the number of immigrants in the UK.
The salary level will be applied to all non-EU skilled workers apart from those who have PhD level qualifications.
By introducing the £35,000 earning figure, the RCN is concerned that recruitment of nurses will be affected as very few nurses earn annual salaries of that amount.
Tina Donnelly, director of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales, told Wales Online: “This rule is going to make it much more difficult to recruit nurses.
“Currently there is an estimated shortfall of 3,000 nurses across Wales, 1,000 in the NHS and the rest in the private and voluntary sectors.”
When Home Secretary Theresa May announced the new policy in 2012, she said that it was aimed at retaining “only the brightest and best” in the UK.
She said: “Until now, settlement has been a virtually automatic consequence of five years’ residence in the UK as a skilled worker.
“Those who have settled have tended to be less well paid and lower-skilled than those who have not.”
However, Plaid Cymru said that people who wanted to work in Wales should be shown the same respect as UK nationals who want to work abroad.
A spokesman for the party said: “Plaid Cymru also wants to establish a Welsh migration service so that we can attract migrants to fill the skills gaps we have.”