We’re turning away skilled workers

6,000 skilled people were denied entry to the UK last year due to visa caps. The Campaign for Science and Engineering reported on a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office which showed that thousands of workers had been denied entry between December 2017 and March 2018.

The Government have refused over 6,000 applications for skilled overseas workers holding a job offer due to an arbitrary cap on visas, including engineers, tech professionals, doctors and teachers.

Many posts up and down the country are being left unfilled because overseas workers can’t get entry. We need more nurses, doctors and NHS staff. We need more teachers and engineers. The majority of people denied visas were either medical professionals or IT/Tech workers.

Liberal Democrat Science Spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:

These figures are truly shocking. These are people that the Government should be bending over backwards to welcome to the UK. Instead they are being denied visas for vital roles in our NHS, schools, universities, science and tech sectors.

These are some of the most saleable people in the jobs market who can and will go elsewhere if the Government doesn’t get a grip and sort this situation out as a matter of urgency.

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14 Comments

  • >6,000 skilled people were denied entry to the UK last year due to visa caps.

    That’s 6,000 jobs for UK residents!
    There are two sides to this coin. If we want UK resident graduates to have jobs with reasonable levels of pay then we have to accept that we have to limits on the numbers of non-UK residents who can come and work here.

    >We need more nurses, doctors and NHS staff. We need more teachers and engineers.
    So let us shout for investment in the training of UK residents; one of the logical outcomes to Brexit. So without saying we support Brexit, we present a policy that Bexit supporting voters (apart from the far right Brexiteers, who want high-levels of cheap migrant workers) can get behind.

  • Peter Watson 18th May '18 - 12:21pm

    “6,000 skilled people were denied entry to the UK last year due to visa caps.”
    Not entirely true. The source article states, “This figure of 6080 is the number of applications that were refused, not the number of individuals affected as an employer could reapply the following month for a CoS for the same role.” so these figures do not tell us the number of people who were still excluded nor, importantly, the number of unfilled roles at the end of the period.

    “The majority of people denied visas were either medical professionals or IT/Tech workers.”
    Again, this is a little misleading, partly because it confuses roles with people as above, partly because it doesn’t tell us the proportion of applications which were unsuccessful, and partly because the breakdown of the figures shows “1226 IT & Technology roles” (20.2%) and “1518 Doctor roles” + “362 Other healthcare professional roles” (30.9%), so the headline “majority of people” is a Brexit-style 51.1%. As an engineer I should probably grumble though that you haven’t included us in that headline. Significant numbers of roles are also in areas unlikely to generate a huge groundswell of public sympathy ( apologies to any management consultants or accountants reading this! 😉 )

    Skills shortages in certain areas means there are probably serious issues with these visa caps introduced by the Coalition Government (along with a whole bunch of political complications around the interaction between Brexit and immigration from outside the EEA), but in order to address them it is important not to misrepresent or sensationalise them.

  • Peter Watson 18th May '18 - 12:23pm

    @Roland “That’s 6,000 jobs for UK residents! There are two sides to this coin.”
    Yup, that’s a hugely important point.

  • @Roland

    “That’s 6,000 jobs for UK residents!”

    No its not – it is one of the misapprehensions. These are jobs where the UK government would have approved them and they might the criteria in areas of job shortage etc. – except to meet an arbitrary target. These people would then have helped British firms export – bringing in foreign earnings for Britain and creating more jobs. They would have spent their earnings in the economy creating jobs.

    British firms may well be tempted to relocate overseas if they can’t employ the people they need to or at best use people overseas in areas such as computer programming that can be done over the internet – meaning job LOSSES for British people.

    Arguably the most successful area in the word economy, Silicon Valley has been fuelled by first and second generation immigrants – generating billions for the American economy, millions of indigenous jobs and employing loads of skilled graduates.

    Immigration and immigrant jobs is NOT a zero sum game.

  • Peter Martin 18th May '18 - 1:42pm

    “Many posts up and down the country are being left unfilled because overseas workers can’t get entry.” Really ?

    If anyone wants to recruit anyone, and has some trouble, just let me know and I’ll see what I can do. I’d be happy to negiotiate a no-find-no-fee-deal.

    Generally speaking the problem is just one of money. Need an electrician? Pay the going rate and you’ll find one. It’s not much different from buying bread. You’ll have a better choice if you pay £1.50 per loaf than if you only want to pay £0.75

    I’d be able to support a much more successful football team if only they paid higher wages to attract slightly better players!

  • @Micheal 1 “These are jobs where the UK government would have approved them and they might the criteria in areas of job shortage etc. – except to meet an arbitrary target.”

    Firstly, this isn’t about a job shortage but a shortfall in workers applying for jobs.

    Secondly, the IT sector has had a permanent shortage of skilled workers since at least the 1970’s and if not right back to its founding in the 1950’s, so I take any cries about shortage of IT workers with a pinch of salt.

    Thirdly, you totally miss the real substance of my point: simply shouting about how unfair the system is to non-UK residents and voters, isn’t going to gain you votes from UK residents and voters, specifically students (ie. those who will soon become graduates looking for a reasonably well paid job not too far from home) – whom on another LDV article we are being encouraged to sign-up and become party members.

    So fundamentally, we need to stop crying wolf and start to look at the reasons for a shortage of applicants from UK residents and address those issues. Remember as a UK resident and voter I’m more interested in there being opportunities (in the UK) for my children than in their being opportunities for the children of non-UK residents.

  • @Roland

    With respect – I don’t think that you are taking on board my point that this is NOT a zero-sum game.

    It is better for those graduating to have a company like Google to work for – co-founded by an immigrant.

    Worse – the potential British Googles of tomorrow may set up in other countries – if it is easier to get the multinational workforce they need together in another country.

    A lot of the success of Silicon Valley – and indeed similar areas here in the UK – is a strong immigrant STEM workforce allied to a skilled indigenous workforce – both benefiting from each other. It is better that they are here than elsewhere – in Silicon Valley, other European countries, Asia or increasingly areas such as India.

    You will see in my other posts that I am to coin a phrase advocating “education, education, education” – double the pupil premium, real increases in the other school budgets and a £30k lifetime fund for adult education/training – as immigration or no immigration we are competing with countries like South Korea that have a 68% university participation rate.

    But some of that will take 20 years and we need the Googles of this world to still be here.

  • @Michael 1 – “I don’t think that you are taking on board my point that this is NOT a zero-sum game.”

    That is because I agree this isn’t a zero-sum game, hence why I’m not (and never have) suggesting that we have zero employment of skilled workers from outside of the UK. The issue is one of presentation ie. framing; the article assumes that because 6000 applications have been refused that this is a bad thing – no need for any further thought or investigation, the UK cannot function without a constant stream of migrant skilled workers, so we must do exactly what the far right want us to do and campaign to make it easier to engage foreign workers – what was Layla Morgan thinking when she said “These figures are truly shocking. These are people that the Government should be bending over backwards to welcome to the UK.”?
    Given the emotions of Brexit, I suggest this is a campaign strategy destined to get the backs up of Brexit supporters and even remain supporters with siblings going to university or now graduated looking for work. A reframing of the challenge along the lines I suggested could make voters look more favourably on the LibDems…

    With respect to your point, ie. “British Googles” or companies like Google setting up in the UK. Investing in the development of UK residents, is an aid in making the UK attractive to international companies (if you have to import your workforce, why locate in the UK?), something that we need to urgently address, as a Brexit that puts the UK totally outside of the single market and customs union will make the UK a highly unattractive place to locate your European HQ/R&D/manufacturing/professional services organisation. The issue is getting the balance right… Currently, I suggest there has been and is too much “the sky is falling in” and too little real thought about the post-Brexit UK economy and priorities.

    >But some of that will take 20 years…
    Don’t disagree, however that is no reason not to use whatever ammunition is available to goad the government into taking a few steps down the road we and many who voted Leave want…

  • Ed Shepherd 19th May '18 - 7:48am

    Why not train local people to do these jobs? Or at least try to get people qualified and trained up instead of letting another gwneration languish in unemployment or low paid dead end jobs?

  • Peter Watson 19th May '18 - 9:42am

    @Roland “if you have to import your workforce, why locate in the UK?”
    Another very important point.

  • @Roland

    Thanks for your further posting – it is good to have a debate about these things. If you read the article referenced (and for context these were all Tier 2 visas) – this states:

    “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”

    They were turned down solely due to the ARBITRARY cap – in a mad and misguided attempt by the Government to get down the net immigration figures – damaging the British economy and people’s job prospects in the process.

    There are knock-on effects:

    Presumably the companies involved will make less money – leading to a knock-on effect of fewer British jobs – including among less skilled.

    They might have some of this work done via the internet if possible – transferring economic activity to our international competitor countries.

    They might well consider relocating to other countries

    The “ecosystem” of similar companies is damaged – part of the success of Silicon Valley is a large number of similar companies with a large pool of skilled workers in the same field (including from outside the country). We have similar areas in IT but also pharmaceuticals, finance etc.

    Ultimately the British Googles of tomorrow are not there as well.

    Not only do this relatively well-paid jobs not get done but they would have spent their money earned here in the UK -boosting the economy and creating or supporting other skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled jobs.

    In general while the arguments have raged here on LDV we are arguably fairly near or at full employment – especially in the graduate and skilled sectors.

    I appreciate that this needs explaining but graduates (and others) will be better off with better job prospects with this immigration as I say it is clearly damaging the British economy – it is why we have Tier 2 visas. Even the current Tory Government acknowledge this.

  • On Brexit:

    One of the massive issues about Brexit is as you say that companies won’t locate their headquarters etc. in Britain – even worse not just headquarters but all their business. Why locate in Britain when you can locate in an EU where you can you have your pick of a 500 million strong workforce rather than Britain when you have to argue with the British Government and hassle with them and not get the workforce you want anyway.

    One of the mottos of Google managers is always hire someone brighter and better than yourself.

    Increasingly a large part of my along with everyone virtually everyone else’s economic activity and especially the “value added” portion gets potentially exported – google searches, youtube views, amazon searches, online courses, the patented research and IP on medicines and using without knowing it cloud computing etc. etc.

    Some low value localisation and fulfilment may have to be done in this country but the rest high value can be done anywhere in the world. So you right in saying that after Brexit other countries will be much more attractive to do this.

    It is why sensible Tories and relatively moderate Tories with whom I far from agree with completely but who have been there and got the T-shirt at the coalface of Government – such as Ken Clarke, a former Chancellor and Michael Heseltine, a former industry minister know the damage that Brexit will cause and are speaking out against it.

    And it why relatively sensible Labour politicians such as Sadiq Khan – again with whom I am not in full agreement also know the damage of Brexit and indeed being outside the single market.

    The Mayor of London’s recent report on Brexit said that on day one of Brexit – tens of thousands of London jobs go – many in finance – because of these factors.

  • Peter Hirst 19th May '18 - 2:57pm

    It is one of the ludicrous implications of Brexit that our much needed foreign workers cannot gain access. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot! Perhaps the Brexiteers want to go back to the middle ages.

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