Representatives from British IT, engineering, medical and other bodies, and politicians have come together to call for changes in Britain’s immigration rules after it emerged that more than 6,000 skilled professionals — including over 1,200 IT professionals — were refused the necessary visa because of a monthly cap for that category.

A freedom of information request by the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) revealed that 6,080 Tier-2 (general) visas — including for professionals from India — were refused due to the annual cap between December 2017 and March 2018, putting the British economy and public services at risk, the group warned.

While the figures don’t break down the refusals by nationality, they do by sector, revealing that 1,814 refusals for roles in professional services were made, alongside 1,226 for IT and tech roles, 1,518 for doctors, as well as 392 for engineers. Last month, it emerged that hundreds of Indian doctors on Tier-2 as well as a separate Tier-5 visa category were refused visas despite having been offered roles in NHS Trusts in the UK.

Call for solution

“These figures show the scale of the problem and the urgency to find a solution. Across the country, businesses and public services are being blocked at the last hurdle from recruiting the people they need, including in health, engineering and tech, due to the visa cap,” said Sarah Main, Executive Director of CaSE. The group is calling for roles on the “shortage occupation list” as well as PhD level roles to be exempt from the cap.

“These figures clearly indicate that we have reached a crisis point that requires immediate action,” said Russ Shaw, the founder of Tech London Advocates, warning that the current cap and salary restrictions “inevitably” hit Britain’s tech sector the hardest.

Visa limit

Under the current system, there is an annual limit of 20,700 Tier-2 (general) visas for non-EU professionals allocated by Britain, broken down into monthly limits which vary between 1,000 and 2,200 a month. Once the monthly cap is reached, further certificates of sponsorship are allocated based on a points-based system, dependent on whether work for an occupation on the official shortage list is being applied for, whether the work is Ph-D level, and also on the basis of salary.

“The Government fully recognises the contribution that international professionals make to the UK,” a Home Office spokesperson said. “However, it is important that our immigration system works in the national interest, ensuring that employers look first to the UK resident labour market before recruiting from overseas.”