Non-EU visas for foreign skills to be relaxed

Doctors and nurses are to be excluded from existing Tier 2 visa quotas, which will in turn free up 7,000 openings for technology and business professionals outside the European Economic Area.

NHS professionals
Downing Street has confirmed that the government would exclude doctors and nurses from the annual quota of Tier 2 visas restricting the number of skilled workers from outside Europe who can take up job offers in the UK.

What will the change to Tier 2 quotas mean?

Such a move will have far-reaching consequences in other business sectors as removing medical staff from the annual quota of 20,700 should free up about 7,000 openings to IT specialists, engineers and others from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).Following press reports over a change of mind over the visas, a Downing Street spokesman said, “The PM will in due course be setting out our long-term plan for the National Health Service. An important part of that is making sure that the NHS has more highly skilled doctors and nurses to deliver outstanding patient care.“What we will be announcing is that doctors and nurses are being excluded from the cap on skilled worker visas.” The move was immediately welcomed by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), one of many business organisations that have been campaigning recently over the inadequacy of the Tier 2 quota at a time of growing skills shortages in many sectors, not least because Brexit fears have resulted in fewer EU applicants for jobs in Britain.Matthew Fell, the CBI’s chief UK policy director, said, “If these changes are as reported, businesses will welcome these reforms as a good first move. International skills and talent are a core foundation of the Global Britain employers want to help build.  “A successful migration system should focus on people’s contribution to the UK economy and society, not numbers. Until our immigration system is reformed to reflect this, including scrapping the net migration target, businesses will continue to struggle to get the people they need to create jobs and growth.”Mark Hilton, employment and skills policy director at business lobby group London First, said the government’s move – expected to be formally announced on Friday – represented “a step in the right direction”. But he added, “It’s time for government to accept that arbitrary caps and targets don’t work.”

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Establishing a post-Brexit immigration system

Sunder Katwala, director of the immigration think-tank British Future, said removing medical personnel from the visa cap would be a “sensible move”.“It never made sense to turn away doctors and nurses that the NHS needs. It also frees up Tier 2 visa places for other employers who need high-skilled staff to fill vacancies,” he said.“It’s the right short-term fix for 2018. In the longer term, Britain will need better training of doctors, engineers and others here in the UK, together with an immigration system that welcomes people with the skills we need.“But perhaps this is a sign that Home Secretary Sajid Javid is willing to take a bolder and more flexible approach to immigration, and deliver the kind of system that Britain will need after we leave the EU.”

Tier 2 overhaul as a stopgap

Proposals for just such a system are expected to be made this September by the government-appointed Migration Advisory Committee. In the interim, business leaders will press the need for a radical overhaul of the Tier 2 system, which, since December, has seen some 10,000 talented workers from outside the EEA being refused visas because the monthly cap on allocations had been reached – the first time this has happened for six months in a row.The London Evening Standard commented, “Having seen the government finally heeding businesses’ calls, it would seem churlish to chide it for not doing enough. But given the expansion of London’s tech economy and the lack of EU folks coming here, it’s certain that the new visas now being freed up will soon all be taken.“The next step should be to increase the Tier 2 limit until we are at a level that truly makes supply meet demand, at least for the decade or so it will take for us to grow our own tech talent.” Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory 

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