TechUK brands Tier 2 immigration visa reforms 'disappointing'

Government introduces a £1,000 immigrant skills charge for employers of skilled foreign workers

An immigration visa stamp

Immigration reforms imposing a charge on companies employing skilled foreign workers have been dubbed "disappointing" by a technology industry trade body.

TechUK, which represents 850 UK tech firms, expressed its displeasure over the planned changes to Tier 2 immigration guidelines, saying they will impact SMBs and international businesses investing in the UK industry.

The reforms to the Tier 2 visa for skilled immigration were announced today by the government, following a review by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).

The minimum salary threshold for Tier 2 visas has been increased to 30,000 for experienced workers, but will be introduced gradually - rising from 25,000 in autumn 2016 to 30,000 in April 2017.

The minimum threshold for new entrants will remain at 20,800. In addition to these reforms, Tier 2 employers will face an immigrant skills charge of 1,000 per Certificate of Sponsorship per year.

Charlotte Holloway, techUK's head of policy, said: "Today's statement from the immigration minister will be disappointing to tech companies, including growing UK SMBs through to international companies investing in the UK." 

But in an official statement released today, James Brokenshire, minister of state for immigration, argued that the UK has been too reliant on foreign skills instead of developing homegrown talent.

Analysis of ONS figures last August found that the UK's tech skills gap has reached 134,000 unfilled jobs.

"For too long we have had a shortage of workers in certain roles, and in the past, it has been too easy for employers to recruit overseas. Last May, the Prime Minister set out our ambition to reform our immigration and labour market rules, and to reduce the demand for skilled migrant labour," he said.

TechUK's CEO, Julian David, previously called the government's position on immigration "dumb", pointing to the need for skilled workers in order to grow the economy in the face of a lack of sufficient talent born in the UK alone. 

"Whilst there is widespread acknowledgement that the technology industry faces some of the most significant skills shortages in the economy extra restrictions such as the new skills charge, increased salary thresholds and limitations on intra-company transfers will not make it easier for companies to access the talent they need to grow," he said at the time.

Last year, organisations such as Coadec, a non-profit trade body for start-ups, expressed concern over how the revised policies might affect start-ups in the UK, with restricted access to skilled non-EU migrants potentially limiting their available talent pool and stifling overall growth.

Guy Levin, former government advisor and executive director of start-up trade body Coadec, has argued that bringing people in from overseas can help plug the skills gap in rapidly growing sectors, often leading to an increase in UK domestic skills over the long-term.

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