£55,000 salary is the new threshold for non-EU visas, experts warn

29 May 2018 By Maggie Baska

Tier 2 certificate of sponsorship limit reached for sixth month in a row in May

Experts are warning that salary requirements for visas will continue to rise after the Tier 2 visa certificate of sponsorship limit was breached for the sixth consecutive month. 

The UK Visas and Immigration department published its May report for monthly allocations of certificates of sponsorship for Tier 2 visas, which must be obtained by employers wishing to hiring a non-EU worker, late last week. This revealed that successful applicants in May had to earn 51 points, more than double the minimum requirement of 21 points and higher than the 46 points required in April.  

Certificates of sponsorship have been oversubscribed since December 2017 and businesses have had to become increasingly strategic in how they approach the issue.

Because of the way the points-based system operates, the minimum salary required to hire a non-EU worker effectively increases whenever this limit is reached. May’s 51-point requirement roughly equates to a salary of at least £55,000 for most jobs. 

Jonathan Beech, managing director at Migrate UK, told People Management that the increased salary requirements favoured industries that historically paid well, such as finance, but added that he had even seen those sectors struggle to fill roles.

“We have had some employers that have wanted to fill roles since 2016 with the onset of Brexit,” he said. “This is a couple of million roles and not just lower-skilled workers… There does seem to be a drive in the UK for labour, but employers are needing a sponsorship licence.”

Beech said he did not think the points would drop below their current rate unless there was a major shift.

“The limit of Tier 2 visa sponsorship applications is purely created by demand and the number of applications, but we have seen an increase in the numbers of applications in certain sectors,” Anne Morris, principal at London-based DavidsonMorris solicitors, told People Management. “This could be in part an effect of Brexit. We have seen fewer European nationals apply for these roles.”

Morris explained that the basic requirements for a successful application, which are ranked on factors such as salary and whether a certain job is known to have a shortage of skilled workers in the UK, have not changed. 

However, the points system does not take account of fluctuations in demand or supply of labour, meaning some sectors have been adversely affected by economic conditions in recent months.

“Nobody has control over that, and that level is arbitrary,” said Morris. “It is not based on industry or business, and some sectors are being hurt more than others.”

The NHS is being particularly hard hit by the increasingly strict visa requirements. Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, revealed in April that he knew of at least 400 doctors who had been blocked from entering the UK to take up a role.

Announcements such as these have led to calls for the government to tweak the visa requirements to allow non-EU doctors to fill empty NHS spots. An Ipsos Mori survey, run on behalf of the Evening Standard and published in the newspaper on Friday, found that the majority of British adults thought the cap for skilled workers, such as medics, from outside the EU should either be relaxed or abolished. 

More than a third (37 per cent) of survey respondents said there should be no cap on doctors and more than a quarter (27 per cent) felt that more visas should be issued across the board. 

Meanwhile, a petition launched earlier this month calling on the government to remove shortage occupation codes and NHS roles from the Tier 2 visa cap has gained more than 1,300 signatures. 

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