The Government’s cap on the number of UK visas allocated to skilled workers from outside the European Union has been breached for the first time since its introduction in 2011.
UK employers hoping to recruit foreign nationals for skilled positions in their companies have received letters from officials rejecting their visa applications due to demand. It is understood that private sector and graduate positions are most likely to have been turned down because science and academic roles have been given a higher priority.
One employer received more than 70 visa rejections for its graduate scheme, the Financial Times reported.
Julia Onslow-Cole from consultancy PwC, told the paper: “This pushback is serious for UK-based graduate schemes and there is a danger that if the problems continue, employers will move these schemes overseas.
“That has a really detrimental effect for the labour market because it will inevitably mean there are fewer places available to British applicants.”
The annual 20,700 limit for non-EU skilled workers was introduced by Home Secretary Theresa May four years ago as part of the Government’s attempts to meet its target of reducing net migration to “tens of thousands” annually. The new Conservative Government has pledged to retain this target, despite widespread criticism of its practicality.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said that businesses have previous found it “too easy” to recruit skilled workers from abroad at the expense of training UK workers to take up the roles. He said there were no plans to change the annual 20,700 cap but that the Home Office would “monitor” the situation.
Prime Minister David Cameron has already announced plans to reduce the number of non-EU skilled immigrants. These include putting a levy on businesses applying for visas and increasing the minimum salary for people recruited from overseas.