Cap on skilled non-EU migrants has 'no impact'

A cap on the number of skilled non-EU migrants which the government proposed and then got elected on has had “virtually no impact” on firms’ taking on foreign talent, a new report says.

The annual cap of 20,700 for Tier 2 visa workers has never been reached since it was first introduced in 2010, despite its inclusion in the 2014 Tory manifesto, found Migration Watch.

The campaign group said it was “unlikely” that the cap will be met this year (2016/17) either, meaning no employer has been -- or likely will be -- stopped from importing non-EU talent.

Designed to curb non-EU immigration, the cap applies to one of the four routes via Tier 2 visas (the ‘General’ route), which is for skilled workers whose UK jobs must pay over £20,800 a year.

But the annual cap does not cover intra-company transfers; non-EU workers earning above £150,000 or non-EU graduates switching in-country. Six other visa types are also out of scope.

These many exclusions may help explain why in the first three years of its operation, “the cap did not bite at all,” said Migration Watch, citing just 54% of visa sponsorship certificates as being used over the period.

In the cap’s fourth and fifth years, the number of issued certificates was much higher -- even ranging into the low 20,000s, but thousands were then returned unused, the report notes.

“Since the cap was introduced the monthly limit has been breached just three times out of a total of 69 months,” the report adds.

“Some employers have therefore had to wait a month to sponsor a worker, but the overall impact has been extremely limited.”

The findings were seized on by Migration Watch’s vice chair Alp Mehmet as proof that business lobby groups have been “crying wolf” about the adverse impact that the cap has on employers.

“The very same lobby is now claiming that a reduction in migration from the EU for low skilled work will be a disaster,” Mr Mehmet claimed, pointing his finger at the CBI and the IoD. “But, with their record, the public will not be convinced.”

Jan 13, 2017