1,600 Engineering and IT workers denied a visa: the issue it’s painted as?

by Heat Recruitment

In May of this year, the news broke that 1,600 workers and engineers were denied UK visas – specifically because the number who applied exceeded the monthly limit of those allowed to enter.

Critics argue that such policies could hamper efforts to develop a high-tech economy, but the UK government advised that employers should recruit from the UK in the first instance before they start to look overseas.

Dr Sarah Main, Executive Director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering (Case) advised that, where there were clear shortages, there should also be exemptions from the immigration cap. She noted that “The tragedy is that this policy doesn’t work for anyone: the government, employers or the public.”

The Tier 2 visa system, introduced by the then-Home Secretary Theresa may and capped at 20,700 entries per year, means that employers had to demonstrate they had not been able to find a suitable applicant from the UK. With the number of denied applications under this scheme rising year on year, it’s a clear indication that the available talent isn’t keeping up with demand.

Calling for major reforms, Dr Main stated that the rejections “send a damaging message that the UK is not open to the ‘brightest and best’ across the world.”

It all comes down to two trains of thought:

  • If the visas that have been rejected are due to low skilled workers shoe-horned into positions to undercut the market, then the visa denials are fair game.
  • If, on the other hand, the role genuinely requires deep skillsets, then the UK government is limiting those who work in the cutting edge of UK tech.

Considering the increase in compliance, regulatory wrangling and legal costs, the cost to a company can be upwards of £5,000. Despite this, there is a very real trend of employers attempting to bring in cheaper labour from abroad to save on costs – a problem that’s endemic in Silicon Valley and appears to be rapidly gathering steam in the UK.

Is this the issue it’s painted as? Not yet.

We’re undoubtedly in the midst of a skills shortage, so with the number of IT and Engineering specialists leaving education with work-ready skills dwindling, the rejection of work visas has been seen as incongruous.

There is, however, a little light at the end of the tunnel. This month, the UK government announced plans to remove doctors and nurses from the Tier 2 (otherwise known as general) visa cap. With the relaxation on bringing in skilled labour in the NHS, the possibility exists for a relaxation on terms for IT and engineering professionals too.

A hard limit on the number of specialists that can join the UK from abroad is undoubtedly a blunt solution to a nuanced problem.

For businesses in the UK, the choice is clear. Identify, train and employ lower-skilled IT workers where possible. Where this is not possible, use the Tier 2 system to bring in top talent from elsewhere.

If you’re an employer looking to hire industry leading IT talent, we have a huge range of specialists on hand from every level of experience. Get in touch with our expert team at Heat Recruitment today.

By Marcus Granville