Restriction on Tier 2 visas would seriously impact business

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Organisations have submitted evidence for a Migration Advisory Committee review on Tier 2 immigration

Three-quarters (75%) of companies feel a restriction on Tier 2 migration would "highly" or "severely" impact their business, according to research from law firm Kingsley Napley.

The research was compiled as a submission for the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which has called for evidence from a number of organisations after being asked by David Cameron to consider new measures to reduce migration to the UK from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), including increasing the salary threshold for skilled foreign workers on Tier 2 visas.

Following an initial consultation carried out in June and July, a MAC report published in the summer has already advised the government against raising salary thresholds.

The government's immigration cap for non-EU skilled workers earning less than £155,000 per year (set at 21,700 a year in April 2011) was reached in June, provoking concerns about the impact of skills shortages on the economy.

Kingsley Napley interviewed more than 30 organisations employing staff on Tier 2 visas. Examples of Tier 2 workers vital to the UK economy cited by Kingsley Napley include lawyers brought in to advise UK-based clients on non-English jurisdiction matters, workers at an engineering firm that is reliant on global talent because the UK has insufficient numbers of home-grown skilled engineers, and individuals with sufficient country knowledge and language skills to assist on architectural contracts in Asia.

Nick Rollason, head of business immigration at Kingsley Napley, said it is time for the government to embrace Tier 2. “The numbers are small fry in the scheme of our immigration intake, yet the economic benefits of this small pool of very high-skilled people are clear,” he said.

"Many businesses in the UK operate in a global arena for talent and for their clients. International mobility is critical for them at both a high-flyer director and more junior staff level. Restricting the Tier 2 scheme will hinder firms' ability to carry out client work and expand in the UK, adversely affecting the UK economy in terms of lost tax revenue and job creation for resident workers."

He added: "The MAC has significant competing pressures to weigh. On one hand the government has set ambitious immigration targets for political and public opinion reasons. On the other hand the message from businesses is clear – internationally skilled migrants are vital to a thriving UK economy. We can only hope the MAC makes a sensible judgment call on this Tier 2 issue.”

Business membership organisation London First also responded to the MAC’s call for evidence, warning that many firms have already been badly impacted by the skilled workers immigration cap being reached in June.

In a statement the organisation said: “Many firms, in the financial and professional services sector for example, were unable to secure visas for their new graduate intake, which risks UK-based graduate programmes.

“Firms will relocate these programmes, which are often planned years in advance, out of the UK if access to their international graduates cannot be guaranteed. This would affect the positions of UK native graduates on these programmes.”

Tier 2 visas are currently available to migrants who have been offered a job in the UK, and require an acceptable level of English proficiency and a certificate of sponsorship detailing the work that will be carried out. The job must also pay £20,800 or more, with a few exceptions.

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