TheCityUK responds to PM’s immigration announcement on Tier one visas

The Prime Minister has announced he plans to reform Tier one visas to ensure the UK remains open to exceptional scientific talent.

Following the Prime Minister's announcement about ensuring that the UK remains open to exceptional talent, Miles Celic, Chief Executive Officer, TheCityUK, said:

Today’s announcement is a positive first step by this government to ensuring the UK’s immigration regime is equipped to meet businesses’ needs following Brexit. We look forward to further progress ahead of leaving the EU to ensure our industry can access the talent it needs to help secure its globally competitive position.

“Britain’s success is built on openness and the ability to attract and retain the most talented people with the right skills, whether from the UK or overseas. This has long been a top priority for leaders across the industry.

“The changes to the Tier 1 visa for exceptional talent will help, but we also need to see wider reform to the immigration system. The current Tier 2 visa system is also unfit for purpose – we need a much more flexible and dynamic system, which responds to today’s very real skills shortages, particularly around technology.

“People are the foundation of any business. Without access to the right talent, the UK’s future position as a world-leading international financial centre will be under threat.”

Last year TheCityUK and EY published a comprehensive report into the immigration needs of the financial and related professional services industry [1].

The report warned that following Brexit, the cost to firms bringing skilled European workers into the UK could increase by up to 300% if existing immigration rules are applied unchanged to European citizens [2], and if planned Tier 2 visa fee increases come into effect [3].

Through nine practical recommendations applicable across industries and to organisations of all sizes, the report sets out a renewed and dynamic approach to the UK’s immigration system. It outlines a system which would enable access to global talent and reduce the long-standing skills shortages which are holding back UK economic and productivity growth.

The report’s nine key recommendations, applicable to all parts of the economy, are:

  • the introduction of a flexible short-term immigration category to enable qualifying international staff to work in the UK for up to six months without needing to apply for a visa first
  • the creation of a new independent Skills Advisory Board with representatives from business, education, the Home Office and parliament
  • employers to be allowed to sponsor visas for medium-skilled roles if the candidate has ‘top-up’ skills, such as digital skills or a STEM subject degree
  • a new ‘dynamic’ Shortage Occupation List that reflects the actual shortages employers face, including digital and cyber security skills
  • a new post-study work visa to allow graduates in STEM subjects to work in the UK for up to 2 years
  • a specialist branch of the Tier 2 visa category to cover overseas experts
  • a change to the mechanism by which the annual cap is operated to take account of lower average salaries outside London and the South East
  • an extension to the period for which indefinite leave to remain can be retained while living outside the UK from two to five years
  • a consistent approach to controlling and reducing the burden of administration on employers and applicants.