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Supporting and Challenging Engineering and IT


The significance of Tier 2 visa rule changes


In 2015 the Home Office announced plans to cut the annual number of non-EU/EEA residents granted permanent residence in the UK from 60,000 to 20,000. Consequently from April 6th 2016, most of those granted a Tier 2 visa will need to earn at least £35,000 per year. In this article Stephen Rooney and Mark Bradford from STEM Graduates will look at the implications this has for employers recruiting IT and engineering graduates.


The top 3 E


ngineering and IT related courses have a higher proportion of overseas students than other


University disciplines. According to the UK Council for Student Affairs, the number of non-EU students across all subjects is 18.9%. Across engineering subjects this figure is 32.7% and it is 20.5% within Computer Science.


The most common route for non-EU graduates to work within the UK is through a Tier 2 visa. The top 3 “non-EU” sending countries are China (87,895), India (19,750) and Nigeria (18,020). In 2014 5,639 students were granted leave to stay under a Tier 2 visa.


The government has recognised a


number of IT and engineering sectors that have a skills shortage and declared these occupations to be exempt from the RLMT test.


With an existing annual cap of 20,700 visas and a rigorous Residential Labour Market Test (RLMT) for occupations not on the Home Office’s exemption list, employers are often subject to a long and drawn-out process in which they have to prove that they cannot fill a vacancy with an EU


candidate.


We understand that a Migration Advisory Committee is reviewing Tier 2 visas and they are expected to become harder to obtain as the minimum earning level of £20,800 is set to rise to £35,000 in 2016. These changes will mean that Tier 2 visas will not be a viable option for non-EU graduates who do not earn significantly more than the average graduate salary unless they are in an “exempt occupation”.


22 00 Graduate Recruiter | www.agr.org.uk


“non-EU” sending countries are China (87,895), India (19,750) and Nigeria (18,020). In 2014 5,639 students were granted leave to stay under a Tier 2 visa.


The government has recognised a number of IT and engineering sectors that have a skills shortage and declared these occupations to be exempt from the RLMT test. This includes employers looking to recruit mechanical, electrical or civil engineers in the oil & gas industry, electronics engineers in the rail or automotive industries, electrical engineers in the transmission & distribution or aeronautical industries or software developers in the gaming and media industries. A full list of exempt occupations can be found at www.gov.uk.


The government has also added new occupations within digital technology to their exemptions to the Tier 2 rule change, with fears of a skills shortage within data science and cyber security being recognised in their amendments. Within exempt


occupations international candidates will continue to be eligible for a Tier 2 visa without restriction provided they earn above a minimum “appropriate” level. This level is less than the level for non-exempt occupations and is circa £20,000 to £25,000 per annum.


Whilst the Home Office’s changes target some key priority areas within IT and engineering, the amendments will not be lenient enough for many graduate employers looking to fill their vacancies outside of the industry sectors on exempt occupations list. Ultimately, many employers within many STEM industries will be left frustrated that the government’s Tier 2 visa amendments will do little to help them fill their graduate vacancies and, as a result, calls to reform the process will continue.


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