Experts have welcomed the coalition government’s decision to freeze the skilled migrant cap for two years, saying that the move will give employers more “certainty” and access to the specialist talent they require.
Rather than reduce the current annual limit for the number of skilled non-EU workers allowed to enter the UK, the Home Office
now plans to maintain the current Tier 2 visa annual ceiling at 20,700 until April 2014.
The cap had been under review following the publication of statistics showing that the number of migrants in the scheme’s first year was likely to be much lower than expected, with only about 10,000 entering the country in the year to April.
But the Migration Advisory Committee
warned the government at the end of February that reducing the cap further could harm business recovery, advice that ministers have now accepted.
Nonetheless, the skill level required to be eligible for a Tier 2 visa has tightened to a minimum of a NQF level 6 (equivalent to a bachelor’s degree), although there will be exceptions made for jobs in shortage occupations and the creative sector.
Some roles such as IT technicians and security managers have now been removed from the skills shortage list entirely, however.
But in the case of highly skilled roles, the government has listened to complaints about red tape and removed the requirement on employers to advertise positions demanding PhD-level skills and offering salaries of £70,000 per annum or more with JobCentre Plus
as part of the Resident Labour Market Test. Instead it will now be possible to advertise them elsewhere.
Gillian Econopouly, head of policy at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation
, said of the move: “Whilst we remain opposed to the immigration cap in principle, it is good news that the government has heard the concerns of business loud and clear and avoided further tightening the cap for the next two years.”
Although the limit may not have been reached this year, as the economy recovered, employers would need to access specialist talent from overseas more than ever, she added.
“Frequent changes to immigration policy, that have often been made with little notice or publicity, and a growing number of restrictions, have caused some concern and frustration among some employers in their attempt to build a productive and growth-driven workplace,” he said.
But the announcement should now give them “greater stability, simplicity and signposting” and provide them with access to the necessary talent to help boost business growth, Davies added.