In April 2018, the UK hit its cap on the number of work permits available for skilled non-European workers for a fourth consecutive month. The May figures are yet to be released, however we are aware that the cap has already been reached for this month.
The cap on skilled worker numbers, introduced by Theresa May as Home Secretary in 2011, is an annual quota of 20,700 with a fixed number of spaces available each month. UK businesses seeking to hire skilled non-EU workers are losing out as a large proportion of applications are being rejected due to the cap on work permits being reached.
Data obtained from a Freedom Of Information request showed that in April 2018, a total of 4,325 requests for UK work permits were made, however there were only 2,200 work permits available. As a result, over 2,000 applications were unsuccessful.
Of the requests made in April, it appears that around 750 were for shortage occupation roles - specialist roles that the Home Office accepts cannot be filled by the resident workforce.
The level of shortage occupation roles has been steady for the past 6 months, with an average of 708 requests each month since December 2017. While the Immigration Rules recognise that these shortage occupation roles cannot be filled by the resident labour market, employers must still go through the UK work permit sponsorship process in order to fill these roles. This was seen as problematic in November 2011 when the cap of 20,700 work permits was introduced, but little was done to solve the problem as the cap had only been hit once before.
In addition to problems caused by these limits, the Home Office continues to inform thousands of employers across the UK that they cannot hire necessary non-EU highly skilled workers because applicants have not met the ‘minimum points score’ set for the month.
The points-based immigration system prioritises applications according to the advertised salary. The minimum annual salary required for an individual to qualify for a work permit changes according to the number of excess applications. This hits thousands of employers and is already having a hugely detrimental impact on UK businesses as they find themselves unable to secure the skills and expertise that these highly skilled migrants have to offer.
The Home Office confirmed that the minimum salary required for a non-EU skilled worker permit was normally £30,000, however in December 2017, it was set at £55,000. In January 2018, applications for work permits for jobs paying less than £46,000 per annum were refused unless they were PhD-level roles or jobs on the official shortage occupations list.
While there is no right of appeal following a refusal, applicants are allowed to reapply the next month provided the job advertisement is still valid.
The practical approach would be to simply remove shortage occupations from the quota and introduce a higher limit. At present, the UK looks set to reach its cap on work permits for skilled non-European workers for an unprecedented sixth month in a row.
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The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.