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Migration Advisory Committee proposes tightening of Tier 2 skilled migrant route


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The Migration Advisory Commitee (MAC to its friends) has today published its report into how to tighten the Tier 2 skilled migrant route so as to reduce non EU migration.

In 2014 there were 52,478 main applicants granted new visas to enter or remain in the UK under Tier 2. Of these, around one third were Tier 2 (General) visas which might potentially lead to settlement and around two thirds were Tier 2 (intra-Company Transfer) visas is a temporary type of visa which does not lead to settlement. Counting all dependants and extension applications for Tier 2 migrants already in the UK, there were 151,659 grants of visas assocated with Tier 2.

Given that net migration stood at 336,000 for the year ended June 2015, any percentage reduction in new Tier 2 visas is likely to have a minimal effect on the overall numbers. Futile attempts to limit migration are an article of faith for the Government, though, so we can expect the MAC recommendations to be followed.

Those recommendations are:

  • The minimum salary threshold should rise 50% from the current £20,800 to £30,000 to reflect the current degree-level skill requirement for Tier 2. As the typical pay of migrants in some occupations, such as healthcare and teaching, is below the new proposed threshold the MAC recommends this new minimum is phased in.
  • An Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) of £1,000 per worker should be introduced, to act as a skills levy on firms using migrant labour. This contrasts with fees far in excess of £1,000 for family migration applications. MAC seems convinced this will affect employer behaviour and lead to greater focus on training up domestic workers.
  • That use of the Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) route for third-party contracting be moved into a separate route and a higher salary threshold at £41,500 be applied.
  • There should be no automatic sunsetting of jobs on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), but employers should provide sufficient evidence when an occupation has been on the list for a number of years.
  • They do not recommend that Tier 2 (General) is restricted only to occupations on an expanded shortage occupation list.
  • They do not recommend restricting automatic work rights for dependents.

The Institute of Directors has urged the Government to dismiss the recommendations, saying:

The MAC’s proposals will hurt thousands of individual firms, which will find it harder to bring in the skilled workers in areas like IT, where we have shortages … The salary thresholds are particularly short-sighted, as they would block valuable employees like engineers, while not catching high-earning bankers or lawyers. It is likely to be the public sector which suffers most, as the thresholds make it harder to recruit much-needed nurses and teachers from abroad.

The Government will now formally consider the MAC recommendations and implement any changes through the Immigration Rules in the next few months.


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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.