Doctors and nurses from overseas will be eligible for fast-track entry to the UK and exempt from paying an NHS health surcharge under a new visa scheme set out by the Home Office on Monday.
Under the new Health and Care visa, those eligible will also pay less in application fees and will be able to access “dedicated support” in filling out their forms.
The exemptions will also apply to their families and dependents, according to the written ministerial statement.
The list of professions eligible include doctors, nurses, midwives and social workers, although the document acknowledges that this will be expanded in the near future.
However, in a move likely to provoke a backlash among some MPs, Downing Street confirmed that social care workers would not be able to take advantage of the new NHS visa.
Speaking to reporters this morning, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We want employers to invest more in training and development for care workers in this country.
"On care workers specifically, our independent migration advisers have said that immigration is not the sole answer here, which is why we have provided councils with an additional £1.5 billion of funding for social care in 2021/22, as well as launching a new recruitment campaign."
Existing European Union workers in the care sector could apply to stay in the UK through the settlement scheme "and a very large number have done so", he added.
The visa will form part of the “Skilled Worker” route in the post-Brexit points-based immigration system, which will require EU and non-EU migrants to gain 70 points to be allowed to come to the UK.
Fifty of those points have to be gained by having a job offer from an approved employer, speaking English and from the prospective job being at the skill level of A-level or above.
The remaining 20 points can come from a variety of categories, where skills or qualifications can be "traded" for points to meet the required 70.
Jobs in key sectors like the NHS and social care, designated by the Government’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), will also entitle applicants to a further “tradeable” 20 points.
Skilled jobs with salaries of £25,600 or above can earn 20 points, as will a doctorate in a science, technical, engineering or mathematical subject.
Those with offers in shortage occupations, such as in health and education, will also be able to gain 20 points so long as they earn at least £20,480, which is considered a floor for entry.
However, to prevent companies from exploiting foreign labour to keep wages down, the Government is also introducing a “going rate” requirement.
This means that if someone earns less than their industry’s average pay above the £25,600 mark, they will not secure the 20 points and will need to get these by fulfilling other criteria.
Applicants earning at least 90 per cent of the going rate in their industry, providing their salary is at least £23,040, will be able to earn 10 points.
New entrants to jobs - generally aged under 26 - will also be able to claim a “discounted” salary threshold up to 30 per cent below the £25,600.
Highly-skilled workers - such as scientists and academics rated as “global talent” and musicians and artists - will be the only groups entitled to enter the UK without a job offer if they have the required points and are sponsored by a relevant professional body. Their numbers will be capped.
Foreign students will be free to continue to take up places at universities and will be granted two years’ grace after graduation to stay in the UK and bring their skills to the British economy.
EU citizens will be able to visit the UK on six-month visitor visas.
In a statement included in the document, Ms Patel said: "At a time where an increased number of people across the UK are looking for work, the new points-based system will encourage employers to invest in the domestic UK workforce, rather than simply relying on labour from abroad.
"We will be introducing a new-fast track health and care visa. This will make it easier and quicker for talented global health professionals to work in our brilliant NHS and in eligible occupations in the social care sector.
“The visa fee will be reduced and health professionals applying can expect a decision on whether they can work in the UK within just three weeks, following biometric enrolment.
“We will exempt frontline workers in the health and social care sector and wider health workers from the requirement to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge."
The document also confirms that foreign criminals who have been jailed for more than a year could be banned from coming to Britain under the new immigration rules, as reported in Monday’s Telegraph.
Border Force and immigration officials will also be able to bar foreign migrants found guilty of serious harm even if they have been sentenced to less than a year in jail as well as persistent offenders such as prolific thieves, burglars and pickpockets.
Anyone seeking to enter Britain who is judged “not conducive to the public good” could also be barred under the new criminality rules, a clause that will allow ministers to reject applications from hate preachers or others who might stir up social tensions.
It goes on to state: "Where the 12-month criminality deportation threshold is not met, a foreign criminal will still be considered for deportation where it is conducive to the public good, including where they have serious or persistent criminality.
"For EU citizens who are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement or the UK's domestic implementation of the withdrawal agreements, the tougher UK criminality thresholds will apply to conduct committed after the end of the transition period.
"The EU public policy, public security or public health test will continue to apply to their conduct committed before the end of the transition period."