The government’s changes to the terms that apply to Tier 2 Sponsor Licenced workers are starting to have an impact on the UK labour market. In particular, HM Government’s refusal to put nursing on the list of shortage occupations is causing serious recruitment problems for the NHS.

Under the revised terms of the Tier 2 Sponsor Licence Non-EU workers - including nurses - must earn at least £35,000 per year in order to apply for settlement in the UK on or after 6 April 2016. Since this level of earnings is out of step with what NHS nurses typically earn, the effect is to leave NHS hospitals drastically under-staffed.

The Nursing Times reported this August that nurses are starting to leave NHS posts either to work in the private sector - where pay is higher - or to simply move overseas. The same publication had earlier reported that 83% of hospital trusts are falling short of their planned staffing levels.

There is ongoing lobbying from health service employers and the Royal College of Nursing for nursing to be made a special case under the terms of the Tier 2 Sponsor Licence. A key plank in their campaign is that it has been impossible to recruit suitably qualified UK nationals to these posts over an extended term.

The government’s Migration Advisory Committee have insisted that there is no need to make nursing a special case under the Tier 2 Sponsor Licence.

The case of nursing highlights the government’s singular determination to clamp down on Tier 2 Sponsor licence applications. Clearly there are strong reasons to consider making nursing a special case.

HM Government is clearly determined to ram home the broader political message that it is “getting tough on immigration”. It appears however that clamping down on Tier 2 Sponsor Licences in this way involves a heavy price for the wider UK population.