Capping the numbers of non-EU skilled migrants – as is being considered by the Home Office at present – will harm the rate at which the UK’s economy experiences recovery. Chastising what he believes to be totally unrealistic immigration targets, John Cridland, Director General of the Confederation of British Industry (“CBI”), stated that up to 20 major firms have criticised the number of visa applications for non-EU skilled workers that have been rejected the past couple of months, since the Tier 2 (General) quota was exceeded for the first time since the Points Based System was introduced in 2008.

Cridland believes that instead of focusing on the real problem – bogus asylum-seekers, over-stayers and unskilled workers – the current interventions being taken by Cameron’s government are starting to bar from entry those that the UK actually needs. “Let’s tackle the bits of immigration the public is concerned about but while we have challenges to productivity and education and skills, let’s not let migration controls inhibit economic growth because that isn’t necessary,” he said.

The issue of the current lack of Tier 2 visas was the biggest complaint to emerge from the CBI’s analysis of the new Conservative Government’s first months in power. The Minister for Immigration, James Brokenshire, stated back in June 2015 that there were no plans to amend the current annual limit of 20,700 and that the Migration Advisory Committee was instead tasked with finding ways in which to significantly reduce economic migration from outside the EU.

The CBI has voiced fears that this could mean the limit being tightened further despite skills shortages in sectors such as professional services, I.T., science and engineering. “Many companies depend on the immigration of skilled workers just as they depend on intra-company transfers and also depend on international students with strong skills working during or immediately after they have done their degrees.” Cridland further criticised the Home Office for its decision to end the right for non-EU students to work for up to 10 hours a week while they study in the UK and to force them to leave the country after they graduate and re-apply to work here rather than being allowed to stay for up to two years. “If the university route is borne down on, companies will have ever bigger skills shortages,” he said. “It is the wrong solution.”

We are currently heading towards an approach to immigration in the UK that will prevent us from easily being able to attract and retain highly skilled individuals who keep the UK at the cutting edge of high-value innovation. The Conservative Government needs to urgently re-evaluate its approach.

Tier 2 route

The Tier 2 route into the UK is presently under scrutiny by the Migration Advisory Committee (“MAC”) as per the instructions of the Home Secretary, Theresa May on 10 June 2015. The MAC are carrying out this review with the intention of cutting down on the number of opportunities available to skilled migrants to come and work in the UK under Tier 2 of the Points Based System.

The MAC has been asked to look at:

  • Options to re-focus the route on areas where there are genuine skills shortages.
  • How to limit the time that sectors can remain on a shortage list.
  • The implementation of a levy on Tier 2 visas, to fund apprenticeships.
  • Restrictions on the automatic right of Tier 2 dependants to work.
  • Tightening up on the intra-company transfer (ICT) route, including applying the Immigration Health Surcharge to ICT migrants and their dependants.
  • Raising the minimum salary levels that migrants have to be paid in order to be eligible to enter the UK under the Tier 2 route.

Sponsors and other interested parties have until 25 September 2015 to submit their views and evidence to the MAC in writing. These written responses should be sent via email to mac@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk or via post to: Migration Advisory Committee, 3rd Floor, Seacole Building, 2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF.