Business groups attack ‘misleading’ Tier 2 report

Business leaders have rounded on campaign group Migration Watch UK for claiming that the Tier 2 visa system has had a negligible effect on companies’ ability to recruit skilled workers from non-EU nations.

UK visa
A new report from campaigning organisation Migration Watch UK has found that the Tier 2 visa system has had “virtually no impact” on the ability of companies to recruit skilled workers from countries outside the European Union.The report said that the annual cap of 20,700 workers – which excludes skills on the shortage occupation list – had not been breached between 2010, when it was first introduced, and 2014/15. It added that even in 2015/16, when 22,037 visa certificates were issued, almost 2,800 were returned unused or reclaimed.

Higher costs for employers and employees

Migration Watch UK accused business groups of “crying wolf” over the effects of the restrictions on Tier 2 visas – a system now subject to increasing curbs, including the imposition of higher costs on both employers and overseas employees.While the report acknowledged that the government had occasionally imposed blocks on recruitment when monthly limits had been reached, it added, “On an annual basis, no employer has been prevented from bringing in a skilled worker since the economic cap was introduced, although some employers might have had to wait a month before they could obtain a certificate for their prospective employee. The cap of 20,700 has, therefore, been sufficient to meet the needs of business for skilled workers.”Alp Mehmet, vice chairman of Migration Watch, said, “The business lobby have been crying wolf for years about the impact of the cap on business, but it has now become clear that the annual cap has never been breached.“The very same lobby is now claiming that a reduction in migration from the EU for low-skilled work will be a disaster but, with their record, the public will not be convinced.”

Report ‘misses the point’

But Seamus Nevin, head of employment and skills policy at the Institute of Directors, accused Migration Watch of “missing the point” over the issue.“The Tier 2 visa cap isn’t being broken because the restrictions are so high that employers are being prevented from applying in the first place,” he said. “The Tier 2 visa system is a prime example of how UK immigration policies are not fit for purpose.“The current system for non-EU migrants is determined by 13 separate acts of Parliament, as well as 10,000 pages of guidance relating to 1,400 categories of immigrants. Employers must answer over 100 questions about a prospective employee when applying for a visa on their behalf, and applications are typically 85 pages in length.“Home Office officials must then consult 1,300 pages of instructions before deciding if a visa will be issued, so employers are often left waiting for months to hear whether an application has been granted.“If Migration Watch thinks this is a good system, clearly they know little about the realities of running a business.”

Filling skills gaps

Josh Hardie, deputy director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, added, “Skilled migration is good for the UK, helping companies to fill skill gaps and supporting firms to trade globally.“Tier 2 migrants are the most important part of the non-EU migration system. The route is already extremely restrictive, and it is getting harder to get the right person at the right time.“Businesses want to see the Tier 2 cap raised, not further visa price increases, particularly a skills charge that will only hold back firms of all sizes and sectors across the UK.”A Home Office spokeswoman said, “The controls that we have put in place around Tier 2 visas ensure our immigration system continues to work in the national interest and support employers in looking first to the UK resident labour market before recruiting from overseas.“The latest published statistics show that 99.7 per cent of Tier 2 cases from abroad received an outcome within 15 days and 99.6 per cent of Tier 2 cases made in the UK received an outcome within eight weeks. Furthermore, the guidance is 122 pages, and covers all four categories of this visa group.“No employer has been denied a place for a shortage occupation or PhD-level job due to the limit being oversubscribed, and the limit has not been oversubscribed since October 2015.”In the Winter 2016/17 issue of Relocate magazine, David Sapsted looks at some of the key international locations bidding for a piece of the post-Brexit action, and canvasses the views of business leaders and politicians. 

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