MAC recommends tighter controls on non-EU skilled workers

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) was commissioned by The Home Secretary to provide advice on a number of potential changes to Tier 2 of the Points Based System to address the government’s concerns about the rising number of migrants using Tier 2, and the reliance on them to fill skills shortages.

This commission followed a speech by The Prime Minister on 21 May 2015 in which he said that “We should be getting to a place where we only bring in workers from outside Europe where we have a genuine skills shortage or require highly-specialist experts”. It was recognised, however, that “The UK economy benefits from highly skilled workers and we want to keep migration routes open for the brightest and best workers who will help Britain succeed”.

The MAC have issued their report today (see below for the link to the full report), which concludes that the best way for the government to achieve its aim of restricting volumes under Tier 2 and focusing on more highly skilled migrants is through price.

They specifically recommend that:

  • The cost of Tier 2 recruitment be raised via higher overall minimum salary thresholds and the introduction of an Immigration Skills Charge;
  • Use of the Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) route for third-party contracting be move into a separate route and a higher salary threshold be applied.

They state that they do not recommend that Tier 2 (General) be restricted only to occupations on an expanded shortage occupation list, and they do not recommend restricting automatic work rights for dependants or an automatic sunsetting of occupations on the shortage occupation list.

A number of detailed points emerge from these broad conclusions. These include:

  • In order to restrict volumes of Tier 2 migrants, MAC proposes raising the overall minimum salary threshold from £20,800 to £30,000.  MAC recognises that some migrant workers, mostly in the public sector, are paid under the threshold and suggests a phased increase in the salary threshold.  A lower threshold, set at £23,000 should be offered to graduates.
  • The committee strongly supports the introduction of an Immigration Skills Charge.  They believe this will incentivise employers to reduce their reliance on migrant workers and encourage them to invest in training UK employees.  This cost will be in addition to raising salary thresholds.  MAC has suggested a figure of £1,000 per year for each Tier 2 migrant.
  • An overhaul of the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) route is recommended in order to reflect the divergence in the use of the route.  The traditional route, where highly specialised staff come to the UK to impart their skills or gain experience, is found to be of significant benefit to the UK.  However MAC also identifies significant use of the route to bring in migrants to service third party contracts, predominantly in the IT sector.  They find that third party contracting cuts IT costs but does not sufficiently contribute to the stock of IT skills within the UK.  MAC therefore recommends that third party contracting should become a separate route under Tier 2 with an increased salary threshold of £41,500.

The report has been sent to government for consideration.  Whilst the government is under no obligation to implement these recommendations, precedent suggests that they are highly likely to be implemented within changes to the Immigration Rules in April 2016.

A full copy of the report is available at: