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26 October 2018 | Comment | Article by Louise Price

Skilled workers blocked from entering UK

One of the main routes for skilled, non-EEA workers to enter the UK is via a sponsored Tier 2 visa. This system requires workers to have a suitable employer sponsor them for the offered job which cannot be filled by resident workers. Before a migrant can take up the position, they must first be issued a virtual “certificate of sponsorship” by their employer.

The UK imposes a restriction on the number of certificates of sponsorship that can be given to skilled migrants coming from overseas where they will be paid less than £159,600. There is an annual limit of 20,700 certificates of sponsorship that can be made which is further divided into specific monthly allocations.

Whether a migrant is successful in obtaining a certificate of sponsorship in any given month will depend on whether the application is made before this strict monthly allocation is reached.

More skilled migrants from outside the EEA are being rejected than ever before because of a surge in applications. This means the strict monthly allocation limit is being exceeded. More than 1,600 IT specialists and engineers offered jobs in the UK were denied visas between December and March 2018. To put these figures in context, the BBC reports that until December 2017, the limit had been exceeded just once in almost six years when 66 applications were refused in June 2015 for engineering roles.

A particular row has broken out in the NHS after British visas for 100 Indian doctors were refused, despite the desperate need for such skills within the health service. For more information on this story click here.

It is not clear what is behind the recent surge in applications. Could this have been prompted in part by European Union workers not applying for jobs in the UK because of Brexit uncertainty?

Whatever the reason, there does appear to be a need for the skills that these workers have. UK employers have clearly concluded the skills requirements cannot be fulfilled by workers in the UK and so are attempting to secure certificates of sponsorship to allow migrant workers to come.

It is debatable whether the blunt instrument of a non-negotiable monthly cap on such applications is therefore best serving the UK economy’s needs where genuine skills shortages exist.

In response to this row the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has said the government will review its policy of capping the number of Tier 2 visas allocated to skilled EU workers and take a “fresh look” at an “outmoded” cap which has caused such difficulties for employers who want to bring migrant workers to the UK over the past few months.

For any questions on sponsoring migrants through the Tier 2 visa system, or any other business immigration advice, contact a member of our employment team on 029 2039 1002 who will be able to assist.

Author bio

A highly specialised lawyer, Louise is a Partner and Head of Employment and HR services. Her expertise includes corporate support work, TUPE, pensions and employee benefits advice. She regularly advises private, public and third sector clients regarding large scale TUPE transfers of staff including drafting indemnities and warranties, advising on potential employment and pension liabilities, information and consultation obligations, and providing best value guidance.

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