Record number of techies and engineers denied UK visas

More than 1,600 IT specialists and engineers from outside the EU were denied visas to work in the UK between December and March because of the cap on the number of skilled workers allowed to enter the country.

Tech sector
According to figures obtained by the BBC from the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CASE), the foreign recruits ran foul of the monthly limit on the 20,700 allowed annually under the Tier 2 system for skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area.The revelation came less than a month after it was disclosed that several hundred foreign doctors with job offers had been refused entry by the Home Office because the monthly cap had been reached. 

Concern over increasing skills shortages

Dr Sarah Main, executive director of CASE, called on the government to scrap the cap in areas where there were clear skills shortages in the UK.“The tragedy is that this policy doesn’t work for anyone – the government, employers or the public,” she said. “The government repeats its mantra that Britain should be open to the brightest and the best, and yet this policy specifically rejects those people.”Figures from the Home Office showed that, between the beginning of December and the end of February, almost half of Tier 2 applications were turned down because the monthly allocation of about 1,600 had been reached, and that in March, rejections exceeded 50 per cent for the first time on record.Earlier this week, the Home Office revealed that the monthly cap had also been imposed in April – the first time the limit had been reached for five months in a row.CASE obtained details from the Home Office showing that, although the healthcare sector had suffered the greatest number of rejected applications (1,876), a total of 1,266 IT specialists and 383 engineers were also refused visas between December and March.“It is unclear why there has been this surge in applications but one possibility is that it may be because European Union workers are either leaving the UK or not applying for jobs in anticipation of Brexit,” commented Pallab Ghosh, BBC science correspondent.
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Tier 2 visa system

In March, CASE wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May calling for the Tier 2 system to be revised. “Training and attracting talented people is critical to the success of the government’s industrial strategy and to the UK’s productivity. Productivity will suffer if firms cannot access the talent they need,” the letter said.Tech London Advocates, a non-profit organisation representing technology entrepreneurs in the capital, has also now written to Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes demanding that the annual Tier 2 limit be raised.“Mounting job vacancies in critical areas now threaten to halt growth and it is vital that UK businesses have access to the vast pool of skilled overseas workers that are needed to help fill Britain’s growing skills shortage,” the group said.Matthew Percival, policy director at the Confederation of British Industry, said, “A migration system that forces a binary choice between staffing our NHS or growing the UK economy is clearly broken.
“We need both. At a time when government is seeking to promote ‘global Britain’, deliberately restricting access to skilled workers from around the world is self-defeating. “This data shows highly skilled workers, who meet the requirements of the UK’s points based system, are being turned away because of an arbitrary cap that puts numbers before people’s contribution. At the very least, government should remove shortage roles from the cap.”Tony Haque, a lawyer at global law firm Baker McKenzie, added, “The impact of the Tier 2 cap is now starting to bite and is definitely having an impact on some industry sectors.“With record levels of unemployment and the negative impact of Brexit on recruitment, many employers have now been forced to look further afield to meet their staffing needs.”

Government response

A Home Office spokesman said, “The government fully recognises the contribution that international professionals make to the UK. “However, it is important that our immigration system works in the national interest, ensuring that employers look first to the UK resident labour market before recruiting from overseas.”“When demand exceeds the monthly available allocation of Tier 2 (General) places, priority is given to applicants filling a shortage or PhD-level occupations.”He added that no applicant on the Shortage Occupation List – which applies to some professions, such as nursing, that are not subject to Tier 2 restrictions – had been refused a visa.For related news and features, visit our Immigration section. Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory 

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