In July 2015, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) called for evidence from businesses, individuals, public bodies, legal representatives or any affected organisation to provide them with feedback or information on the potential effects of the government’s proposed changes to the Tier 2 visa category.

The political context of the MAC review is the UK government's aim to reduce the level of net migration – the number of migrants coming to the UK less those emigrating overseas. There is a perception that employers are overly reliant on non-EU workers.

Penningtons Manches and Tech London Advocates (TLA) response to the MAC review included the findings of a survey of the views of organisations with a Tier 2 (General) and/or Tier 2 (ICT) licences across a wide range of industry sectors.

Key findings included:

  • 90% of respondents thought that the imposition of any restrictions on Tier 2 migrants would have a negative impact on the UK economy.
  • 87% of respondents recruit migrants because of UK skill shortages – particularly those in the tech/IT/digital and life sciences sectors.
  • 83% thought that reducing the number of Tier 2 migrants allowed into the country would restrict their organisation’s growth.
  • Almost half (47%) of respondents need to employ migrants in occupations that are not currently on the Shortage Occupation List – in particular, academic research, digital tech, ICT/telecoms, and health and care roles.
  • More than half (56%) of respondents said it was likely that they would move their operations overseas if the Tier 2 ICT route became too restrictive.
  • Three quarters (74%) of respondents agreed that the Tier 2 points based system worked well for them as an organisation but that the cap was a problem.

The survey findings strongly supported the view that significantly reducing economic migration to the UK will have drastic consequences for the UK economy. We have urged the Government not to confuse Tier 2 skilled migration with general migration. Tier 2 migrants are highly-skilled people who are particularly needed to maintain the UK’s ability to stay on the global playing field.

We have urged MAC to recommend that the Government exercises caution when considering any changes which could restrict UK businesses from accessing and employing the talent they need to grow.