Migration Advisory Committee publishes immigration post Brexit report

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Migration Advisory Committee publishes immigration post-Brexit report

Today the long awaited report into what impact Brexit will have on migration from the EU was published by the independent Migration Advisory Committee. 

The Government asked the MAC to research the impact of EU talent on the economy in July 2017, based on evidence across sectors including education. 

The report makes several observations and recommendations including:

  • Highly-skilled migration makes a positive impact to the economy, particularly on innovation
  • The existing Tier 2 (General) scheme can provide a useful template for a work permit scheme although criticisms of the administrative burdens the scheme imposes should be taken seriously if it is to be extended to EEA citizens. 
  • The sponsor licensing system should be reviewed. It is much harder for small and medium-sized businesses to use the current system than it is for large organisation. One possible direction is to involve sector bodies more as ‘umbrella’ sponsors for their members as is done to a small extent in the Tech Nation Visa and the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) schemes. However, the MAC acknowledges this is a complicated area. 

Ukie has recommended a greater role for sector bodies in ensuring a more friction free process for sponsors. We have previously argued that sector bodies are the best placed organisations to identify skills needs and gaps, especially as a large proportion of active games businesses in the UK are small or medium sized. 

In addition, if free movement ends and if the Tier 2 (General) system is extended to cover EEA citizens the MAC recommends:

  • Abolishing the Tier 2 (General) cap
  • Medium-skilled jobs should be eligible for Tier (2) General not just high-skilled jobs as at present
  • The salary threshold at £30,000 should be retained even though they recommend expanding the list of eligible occupations. This would allow employers to hire migrants into medium-skills jobs but would also require employers to pay salaries that place greater upward pressure on earnings in the sector
  • The Immigration Skills Charge should also cover EEA citizens. However, this charge has been criticised by businesses, particularly smaller ones
  • Abolishing the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) which would be a welcome move. They suggest a 'robust approach' to the salary thresholds and the Immigration Skill Charge are a better way to protect UK workers against the dangers of employers using migrant workers to under-cut UK-born
  • In-country ability to change employers should be made easier for Tier 2 migrants
  • The Government should also conduct regular surveys of firms who apply for Tier 2 visas to find out how the system works in practice.

Given the criticisms of the Tier 2 scheme from companies small and large, a simple transfer from free movement to an expanded Tier 2 system could prove inadequate for fast moving skills needs, particularly for the SMEs that make up the vast majority of our sector. Careful consideration of how the entire system can be overhauled and modernised to cut down on time delays and red tape is critical. 

Commenting on the MAC report, Ukie CEO Dr Jo Twist OBE said:

We welcome the recognition by the MAC of the value and contribution that highly-skilled, diverse talent makes to the UK economy and innovation - 61% of UK games companies employs international talent. However, expanding the current Tier 2 system to EEA citizens would prove inefficient and cumbersome for the industry, which is characterised by fast moving small and medium sized companies.

 

The existing Tier 2 scheme has already come under intense criticism from companies small and large. In order for us to remain competitive when these skill sets are in high demand, we urge the Government to make wholesale smart changes to modernise the system now, including removing the need for a Resident Labour Market Test, to minimise costs, time delays, and red tape. Ukie has consistently urged Government to review the entire visa system and have recommended a smart, frictionless, data driven system be put in place in order to address severe skills shortages, particularly in more technical, STEM related roles.

The UK is a leading hub for global talent in the games industry with 61% of games companies employing international talent. 57% of UK companies employ EU workers which make up on average 34% of those companies' headcount. 38% of companies employ non-EU workers making up around 17% of their headcount. 

Ukie has urged Government to review the entire visa system and recommended that a smart, frictionless, data driven system be put in place in order to address severe skills shortages, particularly in more technical, STEM related roles. 

We held a number of consultation sessions with the committee and the games sector over the last year to outline the issues already faced by companies in the UK who want to hire the best talent from wherever they are. 

The ability to recruit and retain highly skilled, diverse and specialist talent from all over the world is critical to the health, competitiveness and the success of the games industry and is one of the top priorities in any Brexit negotiations, according to our research. 

Our State of Play research found that many companies were already experiencing time delays, admin barriers, and rising costs with the existing immigration system for bringing in non-EU workers. The threat of added complexity, delays and rising costs - particularly for small, scaling companies -  in any new system for EU workers was extremely concerning for UK companies.

The existing Tier 2 visa system has come under scrutiny for some years because of caps on the number of visas issued for specific roles and the overly burdomesome requirement to carry out a Resident Labour Market Test (RMLT) for high-skilled roles. 

In June, pressure from industries resulted in doctors and nurses being exempt from visa caps, which resulted in the number of refusals dramatically reducing to 834 in July. The cap has not been exceeded since July. The change also led to a  reduction in the number of visas refused for scientists & engineers, IT & tech workers, teachers, professional service workers and other medical professionals.

In our 2018 member survey, 50% of games companies surveyed have seen a negative impact on attracting or retaining EU talent since the referendum, up 8% from 2017. 

31% of games companies have seen a negative impact on their ability to recruit international non-EU talent since the referendum, up 4% on last year.