For months, there’s been speculation about how to ease the pressure on the Tier 2 points-based immigration system. It’s the main route into the UK for non-EU migrant workers, and one the NHS relies heavily on.

We’ve written about the immigration cap, which limits the number of skilled non-EU workers entering the UK to 20,700. We’ve hit that limit repeatedly since December last year – something that, previously, happened only once since the cap was brought in in 2011.

Rejected applications get resubmitted months later, creating a severe backlog. As a result, skilled workers have been unable to enter the UK, and businesses have been left with a significant skills gap. And, if those individuals then go to countries where they can get sponsored, the UK misses out on valuable skills and experience.

What’s more, because there are so many applications each month, the minimum salary to guarantee a certificate went up from £30,000 to £55,000 last month.  

This has affected all industries, but the NHS has felt the repercussions of the sponsorship crisis particularly acutely. There’s demand around the world for skilled doctors and nurses, so the UK has always had tough competition on its hands to get the best individuals. But, the backlog, and the higher salary requirement, which means that lots of nursing roles won’t be awarded a certificate, has piled on even more pressure.

There are thousands of unfilled nursing and doctor vacancies in the NHS, and there’s been a growing call for the government to do something. It’s widely believed that Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, will announce tomorrow that doctors and nurses from outside the EU will no longer be counted under the cap.

If so, the NHS will be able to start recruiting urgently needed staff from abroad immediately. And, it should free up a significant number of certificates each month, which can go to lower paid roles and other industries that also need specialist skills.

This is the first significant change we’ve seen to the Tier 2 system for some time, and is a direct response to calls for action. Could this be an early indication of the priorities the government has for migration post-Brexit? Watch this space.

For help with any business immigration issues,get in touch with our team