Skilled Foreigners Being Turned Away For UK Visas

By Fiona Moore, for 18 June, 2018

Lower-paid medical practitioners are increasingly having their request for UK working visas rejected, as a result of immigration quotas.

Information obtained under a Freedom of Information request by international law firm Eversheds Sutherland shows which categories of individuals are having the most issues with obtaining a visa to live and work in the UK.

The data relates to Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship, a confirmation from UK Visas and Immigration that an individual may be employed in the UK. These are limited to 20,700 certificates per year, broken down into monthly allocations. Unrestricted Certificates of Sponsorship, for employees applying within the UK or who earn salaries above GBP159,600, are not impacted by this quota.

According to Eversheds Sutherland, the quota system has existed since 2011 but, until December 2017, the limit was only ever exceeded in one month. Since that month, applications have consistently been in excess of the monthly limit.

It noted that certificates are allocated based on priority criteria determined by UK Visas and Immigration. "Applicants whose occupations are considered to be in notable shortage, as determined on a list prepared by UK Visas and Immigration, are issued the most points. Those who need PhDs to do their jobs also receive extra points, likely to be enough to qualify in any given month. Remaining certificates are allocated based on the proposed income of applicants coming to the UK, without any additional consideration of what they will do. This allocation process has led to many sponsors unable to offer such sponsorship," the firm said.

The figures obtained by the firm reveal that 38 percent of applicants score 60 points or more. This is enough to qualify. Of those applicants, between 15 percent and 21 percent of the total scored points because they are either in a PhD-level or shortage occupation list role. Between 17 percent and 23 percent of the total earn salaries between GBP60,000 and GBP75,000 per year.

According to the firm's analysis of the data, "the number of applicants who appear to qualify with salaries of between GBP50,000 and GBP70,000 per year is relatively low compared to the total. Within the present system, a salary at this level provides a good, but not certain prospect, of being issued a Certificate of Sponsorship."

Other findings include that there is evidence that refused applicants reapply, as the number of applications appears to have ramped up since the amount of such certificates hit the maximum quota. Between December 2017 and April 2018, there was a 23 percent increase in applications, from 3,005 applications in December 2017 to 4,335 in April 2018.

The firm says the figures suggest that doctors and engineers that were unsuccessful in their first application have applied several months in a row. Engineers, which were successful in 48 percent of cases in December 2017, were granted a certificate in only 37 percent of cases in April 2018 (up slightly from 34 percent in March 2018).

For doctors at Registrar level and below, who would typically earn annual salaries below GBP50,000, around 70 percent of applications were rejected. Just 31 percent of applicants were granted a certificate in April 2018, broadly level with December 2017: 33 percent.

According to the firm, jobs linked to public sector pay or in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) occupations are especially unlikely to qualify for sponsorship. Meanwhile, PhD researcher roles have a success rate of over 90 percent, as do higher education teaching professionals. Paramedics, a role which appears on the shortage occupation list, have almost a 100 percent success rate, the firm said.

"Notwithstanding the fact that nursing is on the shortage occupation list, there is a relatively high refusal rate of such applications. It suggests possible difficulties with the resident labour market tests being undertaken by employers, which continue to be required of applicants within the nursing classifications," Eversheds Sutherland noted.

To ensure adequate staffing for the UK's National Health Service, there have been suggestions that medical professionals' applications should not be subject to a cap. Others have suggested broader reforms, to remove all those professionals engaged in an industry included on the shortage list to fall outside the quota system.

"If doctors were removed from the cap altogether, an average of 700 additional spaces for Certificates of Sponsorship would become available each month based on this application data. Based on the number of applications made to date, it would mean applicants with salaries of between GBP40,000 and GBP 45,000 would again qualify for Certificates of Sponsorship," Eversheds Sutherland said.

The firm concluded by advising companies that there may be other avenues to bring skilled workers in the UK. "We propose employers assess carefully whether any other provisions of the Immigration Rules may allow employees, who might usually need a Certificate of Sponsorship, could allow the work. Tier 1, Tier 5, business visit, or looking at any status which may allow personal immigration are all potential options. It is suggested employers should also contribute to consultation exercises operated by the Migration Advisory Committee to indicate how this shortage impacts them. Some occupations always fail to qualify for restricted Certificates of Sponsorship based on this data. Whether allocations should continue to be made on the basis of salary should, we suggest, be reviewed."

Tags: Individuals | Expatriates | Business | Public Sector | Law | Employees | United Kingdom | Education | Professionals | Expats | Immigration | Other | Immigration |


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