Data obtained from a freedom of information request shows that in April 2018 a total of 4,325 restricted CoS requests were made, against a quota of only 2,200. Therefore in April’s round of requests more than 2,000 were unsuccessful.

Of the more than 4,000 requests made in April, it appears that around 750 were from shortage occupation roles. These roles include specialist roles that UKVI agrees cannot be filled by the resident workforce, including certain engineers and scientists, as well as nurses and a handful of areas of medicine. It seems that the level of shortage occupation roles has been steady for the past six months, with an average of 708 requests each month (December 2017 – April 2018).

Despite recognition in the immigration rules that these shortage occupation roles cannot be filled by the resident labour market, employers must still go through the restricted CoS process to obtain a Certificate of Sponsorship for potential new hires to fill these vacancies. This position has seemed illogical since 2011 when the cap of 20,700 restricted Certificates of Sponsorship was introduced but little has been done by way of challenge, as the limit has been hit only once before November 2017. The 20,700 was a cap in theory but never in practice, as the numbers requested did not hit the quota.

This all changed in December 2017 when the cap was hit. In January 2018 the cap was hit again, with the quota actually imposing a restriction for two months in a row for the first time. The quota has continued to be hit each month since December 2017.

Of 16,945 requests for restricted CoS made since the cap was hit (December 2017 – April 2018), 8,192 have been refused. Industries with lower salaries, that are not shortage occupation roles, are therefore unable to bring in potential new hires from overseas, and in many cases have now waited six months.

Jeremy Hunt’s suggestion of removing NHS staff from the quota will therefore do something to assist. However, a bigger change is required to resolve the situation. We suggest taking not only NHS staff out of the request process but all shortage occupation roles – allowing desperately needed skilled workers to apply for a visa as soon as they have a job offer. Looking back over the past 12 months, around 7,500 of the requests made seem to relate to shortage occupation roles. Even with these removed from the process, the restricted CoS quota would still have been oversubscribed by around 4,000 and the quota must therefore also be increased.

A sensible first step would be to immediately remove shortage occupations from the quota while a higher and restructured limit is developed and introduced. The new Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, should demonstrate that the UK’s immigration policy need not continue to be a draconian one and can be changed for everyone’s benefit.