‘A first for everything’ - Home Office immigration cap reached for Non-EU skilled workers

The government's monthly immigration cap for non-EU skilled workers has been reached for the first time in the history of the United Kingdom's Points Based System, blocking, or at best, hindering the arrival of some professionals including nurses, doctors and teachers to the UK.

The annual cap, which applies to job roles attracting a wage of above £20,800, is a measure introduced under the coalition government in 2011 and the Home Office has confirmed that the monthly allocation of 'Tier 2' visas has already been filled for June, only 12 days into the month.

There were 1,650 allocations for June. It is not known, nor will it be published, how many applications the Home Office actually received.

Commentators on the subject suggest that as well as nurses, doctors and teachers, visa applications seeking to bring accountants, solicitors and management consultants into the UK will now be refused, or delayed for consideration in the July quota. 

Relative to 2015, under the Tier 2 scheme, there are 20,700 posts available to businesses who seek to recruit a non-EU skilled worker. Applicants have more chance of success if the organisation is trying to fill a post on the Shortage Occupation List.

The Shortage Occupation List identifies the different jobs available to migrant workers wishing to enter the UK on a Tier 2 Skilled Worker visa, in respect of specific roles and skills. Should the job role in question fall within the Shortage Occupation List, the recruitment of a Non-EEA national into Northern Ireland is much easier.

According to the Northern Ireland Adviser on Employment and Skills there are an identified 3,100 skill shortage vacancies in Northern Ireland. These types of vacancies constitute about 1% of the total job vacancies in the whole of the UK.

Skill shortages are important to identify as they represent particularly productive elements within the economy.

The recognition of skills shortages allows the business community to address productivity issues and infrastructure deficits that currently hamper economic and business growth. 

Positions on the Shortage Occupation List include: engineers, graphic designers, biological scientists, software professionals, physicists, mathematics, geologists and healthcare roles, including social workers. Commentators suggest that none of the visas refused this month under the cap relate to a job on the Shortage Occupation List.

Notwithstanding the clear disparity between political immigration control and business need, Immigration Minister James Brokenshire has stated there are no plans to change the current Tier 2 limit.

Moreover, as stated in our immigration bulletin last week, the independent Migration Advisory Committee will, unfortunately, be advising on further reducing economic migration from outside the EU.

A&L Goodbody will continue to update you on those advices, and their implications, as they are published by the Committee.

If any of the issues raised herein have an immediate impact on your business, or should you want to discuss Visas and Immigration matters generally, please contact: Gareth Walls or Jenny Walker.

Date published: 12 June 2015