Tier 2 Immigration Cap threatens business and essential services

Designed to encourage ‘the brightest and best’ to come and work in the UK and share their talent and skills, while limiting the number of people who can come to the UK overall from outside the EU/EEA, many of the best Immigration Solicitors in London are starting to see the negative impact of the immigration cap on businesses and public services as the Brexit effect starts to bite.
The immigration cap shows its teeth
Introduced in 2011 under Theresa May’s leadership of the Home Office, the immigration cap limits the number of visas that can be granted for Tier 2 skilled workers. The annual quota currently stands at 20,700 per year. These are apportioned between the months of the year. When the number of applications for visas exceeds the quota for any month, the points-based system determines who will get the visas. Recruiting in the face of these complex rules is something that we as London immigration solicitors deal with on a daily basis – and it’s not straightforward.
Until December 2017, the cap had no practical impact, but April 2018 marked the fifth month in a row when the immigration cap was exceeded, and visas were refused. The points based system that operates to determine who gets the visas depends very much on salary, so sectors where pay is traditionally lower – such as healthcare – suffer. However, the use of the points based system is hitting business hard too. The Financial Times recently reported that in March 2018, no one earning less than £60,000 was granted a visa, and in April it was £50,000. While Tier 2 skilled workers must be earning at least £30,000 to qualify for a visa, now that the cap is being routinely exceeded, businesses are having to pay more to guarantee the workers they need to grow and develop their enterprises.
The Brexit effect and the immigration cap
The upsurge in demand for Certificates of Sponsorship for Tier 2 skilled workers can almost undoubtedly be linked to the ‘Brexit effect’. As uncertainty over the status of EU citizens living in the UK after we leave the EU continues, fewer skilled EU workers are prepared to consider the UK as somewhere to invest their skills. Although the process for achieving settled status has been outlined, Immigration Solicitors still know very little about what will be involved – and whether it will offer the necessary comfort to those who have made, or are planning to make, a career and a life in the UK. With fewer EU workers coming to the UK, and a shortage of skilled labour within the settled workforce, employers are having to look outside the EU/EEA to fill skilled roles on a long-term basis. It seems that the immigration cap is likely to have a big impact over the next few months and years.
Shortage Occupation List needs to be more dynamic
The Shortage Occupation List, managed by the independent Migration Advisory Committee can offer comfort in some cases. The Shortage Occupation List as currently published includes a number of different roles in various sectors. If a role features in the list, the recruiting organisation does not need to satisfy the Resident Labour Market Test usually necessary before recruiting for Tier 2 skilled workers. Even more important, roles on the Shortage Occupation List are prioritised if the number of Tier 2 skilled worker visas exceeds the quota. However, if the roles don’t appear on the list, employers – and the skilled workers they wish to employ – are at the mercy of the points based system.
The impact of the immigration cap in practice
The BBC recently reported how this is having a very real impact on the lives of people living in the UK. Genetic counselling – a service which allows doctors to identify people at risk of hereditary cancers and other diseases and offer advice and options including pre-emptive surgery – does not feature on the Shortage Occupation List. Visas are being refused, and positions remain empty in UK NHS Trusts. As Dr Katie Snape, Consultant for Cancer Genetics told the BBC
“The fact that we are unable to run safe cancer genetic services in this country, I think is awful. Unequivocally, waits are getting longer. It varies depending on hospital trust and where you are in the country, but we are aware now of at least one trust that is about to have 3 empty positions.”
Review of the immigration cap is urgently needed
As the skills gap deepens in the UK, and the Brexit effect takes hold, it seems that the immigration cap will cause long term damage to the UK economy and public services. In the current climate, the Shortage Occupation List does not seem to be dynamic enough to respond to the recent upsurge in the need for skilled workers, leaving UK plc seriously under-staffed. Doing nothing means facing business stagnation or decline, and a worsening of the staffing crisis in essential services such as the NHS. The immigration cap looks set to contribute significantly to this crisis unless the Home Office and the Government take action to review the position. As some of the best Immigration Solicitors in London we will keep you updated.
OTS solicitors are highly experienced Business Immigration lawyers in London. We regularly act for employers looking to recruit from outside the EEA in order to fill essential posts in their organisations. We can advise you on all aspects of the process, from obtaining a Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence, to using the sponsorship management system and complying with your ongoing obligations. Call us today on 0203 959 9123 to book your appointment with one of the top Immigration Solicitors in the UK.


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