The Home Affairs Select Committee has today published its report Immigration: Skills Shortages.
The Committee considers that the Tier 2 cap is not working as intended and may even be counter productive to both net migration and economic aims. It also concludes that there is a significant disparity between the net migration figure, currently 336,000 a year, and the relatively small number of 20,700 possible Tier 2 (General) visas.
Referring to post study work options for international students, the Committee has urged the Government to look again at the value of international students to the UK, economically, intellectually and culturally, and consider how it might devise policies that reduce the barriers for international students to stay in the UK and take up high skilled employment.
The Committee has also called on the Home Office to increase the time allowed for an organisation to make representations in the event of a decision to suspend or revoke a sponsor licence to 40 working days from the current 20 working days. It has also called for a formal right of appeal against such decisions to be introduced so that sponsors do not have to resort to costly and time-consuming judicial review claims.
In relation to the Tier 2 (ICT) route, the Committee recognises what it calls a ‘dramatic rise’ in highly paid, highly skilled people using the route for a limited time and it supports the routes continued exclusion from the cap.
Chair of the Committee Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP said:
“The government’s immigration cap does not fit, it may even be counter-productive. It is having no effect on bringing down net migration. The latest net migration figures show a third of a million people entered the UK last year, roughly the size of Cardiff, making the Tier 2 cap of 20,700 minimal in comparison. Yet it blocks the recruitment of vitally needed skills required by individual employers and the economy as a whole. When the monthly allocation is used up, employers are left with a stark choice between a nurse or an engineer. Britain must be open for business, to achieve this we need skilled workers.
When the cap was reached earlier this year, we saw the perverse effects of the system, as the cap prioritises higher paid jobs. In June, Nurses were being prevented from working in the UK, which necessitated the Government taking emergency measures to allow recruitment to continue. Whilst this was a very welcome move, it is clear to see that the system could have caused a crisis in the NHS this winter. A system which encourages panicked adjustments to be functional is not fit for purpose. Nurses should remain on the Shortage Occupation List.
Salary, the main measure used in implementing the cap, is a crude tool for getting the skills we need. Salaries are lower outside London, yet these are areas the government itself argues requires more economic development, such as the Northern Powerhouse.
Employers need the right of appeal to challenge a system that is slow, unimaginative and cumbersome. Businesses need an adequate amount of time to respond, particularly given the Home Office’s poor record at producing information to short deadlines.”
Nichola Carter, Principal Solicitor at Carter Thomas said: “The majority of the Committee’s proposals will be welcome news to businesses and education providers. In relation to the proposals concerning enforcement action, we are often the first port of call for Tier 2 and Tier 4 sponsors that find their sponsor licences at risk of revocation. These sponsors have only 20 working days in which to prepare a robust response to detailed allegations from the Home Office, often the result of several months work. The Committee’s proposals that this period of time should be extended to 40 working days and that a right of appeal should be introduced will, if implemented, introduce a much needed element of fairness into the system.”