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Government's Immigration Cap does not fit, says Committee

18 December 2015

The Home Affairs Select Committee publishes a report saying the Tier 2 cap is not working as intended and may be counter-productive to both net migration and economic aims.


The aim of the Tier 2 cap is to help deliver the Government's objective of reducing net migration to the 'tens of thousands'. However, there is a significant disparity between the net migration figure, currently 336,000 a year, and the relatively small number of 20,700 possible Tier 2 (General) visas.

The number of people coming to the UK to take up work has not reduced, and the number of people seeking to come to take up a high skilled job in the UK has increased.

While the cap may serve a purpose in discouraging recruitment from non-EU countries, it has stimulated recruitment from EU countries, which will not help the Government reach their target of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands.
The Committee says:

  • Under the Cap public sector workers recruited from abroad are subject to unacceptably high salary threshold in prioritising cases. The result of which could have created a crisis in Nurse recruitment, effectively crippling the NHS over winter. 
  • "Recycling" unused sponsorship certificates was a good move, but should have been done earlier. The Committee calls on Government to explain why it did not consider this measure before the cap was reached.
  • One of the stated aims of the cap is to incentivise domestic training and recruitment, in business and public services. However, the evidence shows that UK businesses that recruit skilled foreign workers do train their own workforces, and training more nurses domestically, for example, would require the Government to increase the number of nursing training places available.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Committee Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP said:

"The government's immigration cap does not fit, it may even be counter-productive. It is having no effect on bringing down net migration. The latest net migration figures show a third of a million people entered the UK last year, roughly the size of Cardiff, making the Tier 2 cap of 20,700 minimal in comparison. Yet it blocks the recruitment of vitally needed skills required by individual employers and the economy as a whole. When the monthly allocation is used up, employers are left with a stark choice between a nurse or an engineer. Britain must be open for business, to achieve this we need skilled workers.

When the cap was reached earlier this year, we saw the perverse effects of the system, as the cap prioritises higher paid jobs. In June, Nurses were being prevented from working in the UK, which necessitated the Government taking emergency measures to allow recruitment to continue. Whilst this was a very welcome move, it is clear to see that the system could have caused a crisis in the NHS this winter. A system which encourages panicked adjustments to be functional is not fit for purpose. Nurses should remain on the Shortage Occupation List.

Salary, the main measure used in implementing the cap, is a crude tool for getting the skills we need. Salaries are lower outside London, yet these are areas the government itself argues requires more economic development, such as the Northern Powerhouse. 
Employers need the right of appeal to challenge a system that is slow, unimaginative and cumbersome. Businesses need an adequate amount of time to respond, particularly given the Home Office's poor record at producing information to short deadlines."

Further information

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