STEM teachers and doctors denied UK visas - News & Features

17 May 2018
STEM teachers and doctors denied UK visas

Thousands of skilled foreign workers with offers of employment in the UK were refused entry due to Theresa May’s “arbitrary” visa scheme, it has been revealed.

Among the 6,080 refusals over the four-month period, 1,518 related to doctor posts and 361 to other healthcare professional roles, 1,226 to jobs in IT and technology, 392 engineering roles, 197 teachers, 1,814 professional services and 572 to other professions.

May's legacy 

The Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) proposed Parliamentary Questions regarding the figures.They were unsatisfied with the responses and resorted to a Freedom of Information request to access the official data.

The refusals were the result of an annual limit of 20,700 ‘Tier 2 visas’ introduced in 2011 while Theresa May was home secretary. The Home Office have commented that “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”.

Employers already do. To be eligible for a Tier 2 visa companies must have done a resident labour market test to prove there was no one suitable for the role in the domestic talent pool. And there is economic and anecdotal evidence that employers only engage with the tier 2 system if they need to – it is costly and complicated, so certainly not done in preference to UK talent.

SfAM was a signatory to a letter sent from CaSE earlier this yearc alling on the Government to revise the visa restrictions.

Post-Brexit plans

The figures were revealed as the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee announced plans to develop its own suggestions for new immigration rules for scientists after Brexit. Commenting, CaSE Executive Director Dr Sarah Main said:

"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. This leaves employers frustrated and the public poorly served."

Commenting on the short and long-term solution, CaSE Executive Director Dr Sarah Main said:

"The cap is beginning to cause damage and it needs to be addressed quickly. In the immediate term, shortage and PhD level roles should be made exempt from the cap. This would be in line with the priority already afforded to these roles and would create the headroom for other vital roles."

"In the long term, an immigration system for a Global Britain that supports research and innovation should not feature a cap on the international specialists we want to attract."

Science talent

Commons Science and Technology Committee chair Norman Lamb said the figures “send the message that the UK is not interested in welcoming science talent at the moment”.

The Liberal Democrat former minister said it was “disappointing” the government appeared to assume scientists were content to wait for next year’s immigration bill to find out what visa rules they would face after Brexit.

Ms Main of CaSE said the immediate solution should be to exclude from the tier 2 visa cap roles where there were skills shortages in the UK. Several other scientific, engineering and health organisations supported her call, including the British Medical Association.

“The current visa restrictions and arbitrary caps for non-EU workers entering the UK are inexplicable and threatening patient care and safety,” said Chaand Nagpaul, BMA chair.