Concerns that some of the world's most highly skilled workers are being 'locked out' of the UK has prompted a government inquiry into the impact of the visa cap, an article on Techworld reports.
Professionals - including technologists, doctors, nurses, accountants and teachers - from outside the EU are able to enter the UK on a 'Tier 2' visa. The coalition government introduced a cap of 20,700 visas back in April 2011; however, last month, demand was greater than supply for the first time ever.
A total of 1,650 visas were available last month, yet the Home Office stopped supplying them from 25 June onwards. At first, it refused to disclose details of how many applications were refused, but a Freedom of Information request later unveiled that 1,329 visas were declined simply because there were no spaces left.
Some of the world's largest technology firms that operate in the UK -- including Facebook and Google -- rely on the Tier 2 visa to be able to employ highly skilled employees from outside the EU. The cap means that these firms, along with numerous other businesses in the UK, were unable to recruit the workers they needed.
A report published in the second quarter of 2012, entitled The Future Digital Skills Need of the UK Economy, predicted that between 2013 and 2017 an additional 745,000 workers would be required in order to meet rising demand among employers. Yet, half way through that timeframe the skills shortage is still evident.
The Home Affairs Committee, a public body which examines the policy, administration and expenditure of the Home Office, said it was concerned about the effect the cap could have on the UK's economy. The inquiry will examine:
- The impact the 20,700 cap has had on employers.
- The sectors that have been most affected by the cap.
- If the cap remains, what is the most effective way to meet the needs of the UK economy while controlling the number of skilled workers entering the UK from outside the EEA.
- What would replace the cap if it was abolished.
MP Keith Vaz, who chairs the committee, commented: "It is easy to see how [the cap] could impact on the services, sectors and small businesses who rely on skilled workers from abroad, and in the longer term impact on the economy. There are also serious concerns about the knock-on effect of the loss of the post-study work route.
"The Committee hopes to gain an insight into whether the current system is the best way to achieve the twin aims of controlled immigration that can maintain the level of skilled workers essential to providing the services we all rely on and enjoy."