Demand for Tier 2 visas has remained competitive despite the decision to remove doctors and nurses from the cap, lawyers have told People Management, although the salary threshold appears to have become more attainable.
The government announced it was removing certain NHS staff from the immigration limit in June, after restricted certificates of sponsorship – which must be obtained by UK employers wishing to hire non-EEA staff – were continuously oversubscribed during the first half of 2018. Doctors and nurses account for about 40 per cent of Tier 2 applications.
Although the minimum salary requirement for a Tier 2 visa is £30,000, the way the points system operates means, each time the cap is breached, the salary required increases. Before the announcement, which was hailed as a major relaxation of the government’s historically hostile approach to immigration, demand for Tier 2 visas had driven the salary required to secure one up to £55,000.
Lawyers have now told People Management they have had visa applications approved with salaries which would have been far too low to clear the hurdle before the NHS staff exemption.
“We were anticipating it would be a couple of months to clear the backlog and the threshold would take time to go down, but we have already had one visa application approved that was over £10,000 lower than the £55,000 threshold,” said Karen Kaur, immigration analyst at Migrate UK.
“The process will be hit-and-miss for a while, because we do have applications we are yet to hear from before the August deadline, but it does look as though the salary threshold is starting to drop.” Kaur added.
Ilda de Sousa, immigration partner at Kingsley Napley, also said her firm had achieved successful restricted certificate applications at salary thresholds of around £45,000 in July. However, she warned average salaries would remain comparatively high for the time being.
“At face value, now doctors have been removed from the cap, it means some visas are available, but this will continue to help applicants on higher salaries over those on lower salaries,” she said.
“The change in rules will probably be beneficial to sectors like financial services or legal services, because those salaries are reasonably high. But even well-paid individuals in other sectors are likely to miss out, because their salaries will be nothing near those in competing industries.”
Other firms told People Management they were still facing problems obtaining visas.
Both Laura Devine Solicitors and Fragomen said they had seen applicants in the £30,000 to £40,000 salary range being turned away for visas in July.
If pressure on the Tier 2 application process persists, Andrew Willis, head of legal at CIPD HR-inform, said businesses in search of talent may have to look closer to home.
“Employers may now be forced to rely on the UK workforce to fill their vacancies – something that the government encourages – but must ensure their recruitment processes are sufficiently robust to get the right person,” he said. “Employers shouldn’t be afraid to reject candidates who aren’t good enough; waiting a little longer and holding out for the best candidate could pay dividends in the long run.”
Earlier this week, it was reported several restaurants in London’s Chinatown district shut their doors as their owners protested against a series of immigration enforcement raids, with critics describing the Home Office’s efforts as “fishing”. Restaurant owners have attributed recruitment pressures in part to the Tier 2 visa system’s minimum £30,000 salary requirement, which was introduced in 2014.
“The demand for non-EU workers will only increase further if the current Migration Advisory Committee inquiry into lowering the skills threshold below graduate-level occupations goes in favour of employers; a policy which the CIPD is pushing hard for,” said Gerwyn Davies, senior policy analyst at the CIPD.
“Given the continued strong demand for workers and the rising constraints on labour supply, the obvious solution lies in increasing the allocation of Tier 2 visas in the future.”
Official government statistics, released within an hour of this article being published, revealed Tier 2 restricted certificates of sponsorship were oversubscribed in July. The figures indicated a salary of £41,000 was required to obtain one.