Tier 2 easing proves ‘massive relief’ for employers three months on

But experts warn further tweaks may be needed to prevent future recruitment strains

This summer’s easing of immigration limits for medical professionals has successfully enabled more doctors to be recruited from outside the EEA and reduced recruitment pressures on other sectors, official figures published yesterday have suggested. 

Home secretary Sajid Javid announced the cap for restricted certificates of sponsorship (RCOS) for Tier 2 (General) visas – which, in essence, must be obtained by employers hoping to hire talent from outside the EEA – would no longer apply to doctors and nurses in June 2018. This change came into effect in July.  

Three months on, the most recent figures from UK Visas and Immigration revealed every applicant scoring at least 21 points – the minimum required under the Tier 2 system – was allocated a RCOS in September. The same was true of August’s allocation. By comparison, a minimum of 60 points was required in June 2018, while the limit was breached for eight months in a row from December 2017 onwards. 

Medical recruitment consultancy Remedium Partners described the change as a “massive relief” for hospital departments around the country, with every application the firm handled throughout August accepted. 

“In the months before the lift, nearly all of the non-shortage occupation RCOS in areas such as anaesthetics, general surgery and acute medicine that were applied for had been rejected continuously, due to the limitation,” said Nicholas Hitchins, head of acute medicine at Remedium Partners. 

“This caused extensive disruption and distress, not just for our doctors, but for our hospitals and trusts that are relying on these permanent professionals. The visa cap lift in July has made a huge difference, especially to doctors applying to work in non-shortage occupations in the NHS.” 

Karendeep Kaur, immigration analyst at immigration law firm Migrate UK, agreed the relaxing of the cap for the medical profession had eased pressures across other sectors, but added a further relaxation may be necessary to prevent points qualifications and salary limits increasing again towards the financial year end. 

“The quota of sponsorship certificates doesn’t stay uniform throughout [the financial year], so these salary levels could be driven up again,” she told People Management

“From now until February, there are 1,500 spaces available, but from March next year it will be 1,000 before the financial year is up, so this can place a strain on employers to get everything sorted out and it may increase the salary levels again.” 

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) last week called on the government to abandon the cap for all sectors, and extend Tier 2 visa eligibility to medium-skilled roles, although experts criticised a lack of focus on low-skilled roles and EU workers.

“If they remove the cap entirely, as the MAC has recommended, this will be beneficial to businesses – but largely to those businesses that are capable of paying the minimum salary requirement and the immigration skills charge,” Kaur said.

“If the cap on labour market tests is also scrapped, it’s likely the immigration skills charge will be increased, primarily benefiting medium- and high-skilled workers and the businesses employing these individuals.” 

A Home Office spokesperson said it was regularly reviewing the Tier 2 visa guidelines.