Tier 2 Visa system criticised by Home Affairs Select Committee

The House of Commons' Home Affairs Select Committee has said that the UK Tier 2 Visa system is 'not fit for purpose'. The following comments were made by Keith Vaz MP Chairman of the Committee, in a scathing report published by the Committee, on the government's Tier 2 Visa cap on recruiting skilled workers from outside the European Union (EU).

… "The government's immigration cap does not fit, it may even be counter-productive…

The Committee, an all-party group of MPs, said that the annual Tier 2 Visa limit – which currently stands at 20,700 – has had the effect of encouraging employment of EU Citizens from other EU Countries while making it difficult for companies to hire skilled workers with the necessary skills needed in the UK from outside the EU.

The government has been urged not to bring in further Tier 2 Visa restrictions by the UK business community. However, some Government ministers wish to bring in new tier 2 visa restrictions early in the New Year [2016] in an attempt to reach Prime Minister, David Cameron's target of bringing net migration to under100000 a year by 2020. However, according to the latest figures, net migration levels have hit a record annual rate of 336,000.

Review of UK immigration policy

The release of the tier 2 visa report prompted the Institute of Directors (IoD) – a business group with a membership consisting mainly of company directors – to call for a complete review of UK immigration policy. They accused the government of setting unrealistic targets that made it impossible to put in place an immigration system that works to the benefit of UK business and the economy.

Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz MP, said that a sudden decision to make it easier for nurses to enter the UK, by adding the occupation to the shortage occupation list, by Home Secretary, Theresa May, demonstrated that the Tier 2 Visa system is simply not fit for purpose.

Mr Vaz said: "Having hit the monthly cap in June this year, we witnessed the twisted effects of the system, as the cap gives preference to job roles with higher salaries. In June, nurses were prohibited from working in the UK, which prompted the government to temporarily ease restrictions to allow recruitment to continue."

"Although the temporary measures were welcomed, it's clear that the Tier 2 Visa system could have caused a staffing crisis across the NHS this winter. A system that prompts rushed adjustments in order to remain functional is not fit for purpose. Quite simply, nurses should remain on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL)," Mr Vaz added.

According to Vaz, the government imposed annual cap is not doing much good; in fact he labelled the cap 'counterproductive.' Capping the number of Tier 2 General visas issued is having very little impact on reducing net migration levels.

UK Net migration numbers

The latest net migration figures confirm that about a third of a million people entered the UK in the year to June 2015. That's a number roughly the equivalent to the size of the population of Cardiff, Wales. The tier 2 annual visa cap of 20,700 represents a small percentage of total immigration into the UK.

Vaz, along with other commentators, say that the cap prevents the recruitment of people with crucial skills needed by UK businesses which benefit the economy. When a monthly allocation is reached, employers are unable to employ badly needed skilled workers from outside the EU. Vaz declared that 'Britain needs to be open for business, to achieve this the country requires skilled workers.'

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Recommendations made by the Home Affairs Select Committee will be considered. However, ministers have added that historically it has been 'too easy' for UK companies to recruit foreign workers rather than investing in British workers."

Head of Employment at the IoD, Seamus Nevin, said: "A 'toxic' political debate over migration levels has left business caught between the need to tackle very specific skills shortages to improve productivity, while facing increasing criticism for recruiting from overseas."

"The Home Affairs Select Committee is right in asserting that the annual Tier 2 Visa cap has had 'no impact' on reducing net migration levels. However, it has hit businesses hard, preventing them from employing people with the skills they need. The government must give consideration to the issues raised by the Committee, because not only is it affecting UK employers, it's putting off foreign firms from investing in the UK," Nevin added.

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