More than 2,300 applications from doctors and nearly 2,000 applications from information technology professionals for UK work visas have been rejected in recent months, according to official figures that highlight the growing strain on Britain’s Tier 2 visa system.
The figures, obtained by Eversheds Sutherland, the law firm, via a Freedom of Information request, showed that 2,360 applications from doctors from outside the European Economic Area were rejected between November 6 and April 5 of this year, while 1,946 applications from non-EEA IT professionals were also unsuccessful.
The data also show that while 103 applications were made by pharmacists during the five-month period, not a single visa was issued.
The figures give the most detailed picture to date of how the Tier 2 visa system — which allows employers to bring skilled workers from outside the EEA to the UK to fill professional jobs — has been overwhelmed in recent months.
Under current rules, a maximum of 20,700 “certificates of sponsorship” are issued for Tier 2 visas each year.
But demand for skilled workers has exceeded the monthly cap on visas since last December, as a decline in net immigration from the EU to the UK has prompted employers to seek workers from outside the bloc.
As a result, 10,187 of 18,517 applications made in the five-month period covered by the FOI request were rejected.
Seamus Nevin, head of policy research at the Institute of Directors, said people with vital skills needed to fill key shortages in UK industry and the National Health Service were being turned away under the current system.
“If firms can’t recruit the skilled people they need to fill the roles they’re creating, Britain as a whole will lose out,” Mr Nevin said.
When demand for visas exceeds supply, sponsorship certificates for Tier 2 visas are allocated according to a points-based system that is heavily weighted towards an applicant’s proposed salary. In April, no one earning under £50,000 a year was offered a visa.
Ninety of the 97 applications by consultant doctors for Tier 2 visas over the months covered by the FOI request were approved, while only 733 of 2,341 applications for more-junior registrars succeeded.
Simon Kenny, an immigration specialist at Eversheds Sutherland, said: “Having the allocation based on salary only, which is the pre-determining factor to get these certificates, is a very crude way of allocating [visas].”
UK prime minister Theresa May blocked efforts by former home secretary Amber Rudd to reform the Tier 2 system. Ms Rudd had pushed for medical staff to be exempt from quotas to free up space for other professions.
Sajid Javid, Ms Rudd’s successor, has promised to “look at” the system in light of recent demand.
The Home Office said the government fully recognised the contribution international professionals make to the UK. “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.”
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