6,000+ skilled workers denied entry to UK – what does this mean for a post-Brexit future?

Man holding laptop in airport

6,000+ skilled workers denied entry to UK – what does this mean for a post-Brexit future?

Wednesday saw a deluge of baffled responses to an announcement from the Home Office that over 6,000 skilled workers with job offers had their visa applications rejected due to arbitrary government caps. These applications, received from December 2017 to March this year, were to work in several major fields in which there are acknowledged and well-documented skills shortages, including engineering, teaching, healthcare, and, of course, tech.

In Ukie’s 2017 Members’ Survey and our Brexit State of Play report, access to talent, particularly international talent, was the single biggest concern among our members and the wider games industry. Since the referendum, our lobbying efforts have been oriented towards this issue. In January, we collaborated with other sectors in the creative industries to assemble an event on the importance of freedom of movement post- Brexit – Drawn Together – which engaged MPs across the All Party Parliamentary Groups for the creative industries. Our individual engagement with MPs has also increased the pressure around this issue – demonstrating the proportion of global talent in the industry through studio visits, repeatedly raising the subject in government consultations, and responding to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) with case studies and concerns from our members.

Several Ukie member companies indicated in our MAC response that, since the Brexit vote, they had seen a sharp decrease in job applicants from the EU and so were relying more heavily on talent from outside the EU.  If these talent pools are further limited by Tier 2 arbitrary caps and high salary thresholds, not to mention sponsorship costs for companies that can run into the tens of thousands, UK businesses will miss out on the incredible talent that makes our industry successful.

While the Tier 2 caps do not currently apply to EU citizens, the refusal of these applications could be an indication of the situation we may be left with after Britain’s exit from the European Union next March. For games, this means some of the world’s most dynamic and innovative companies trying to recruit from a competitive talent pool, being further limited by an immigration system that does not adequately respond to the need for global talent in our industry. This revelation from the Home Office is yet more evidence that any revised post-Brexit immigration system needs a streamlined, data-driven approach, designed to aid the migration of the skilled individuals the UK games industry and wider economy needs to maintain its world-leading status.