The monthly quota for Tier 2 (General), the UK immigration category which enables UK companies to sponsor non-EEA nationals to work in the UK, has been exceeded for the second month in a row.  This is only the third time since the limit was established seven years ago that it has been exceeded.  However, over the past nine months, the numbers applying under this category have been rising and, unless the UK Government increases the limit substantially, we are likely to be entering a "new norm" where the limit is exceeded every month.

This effectively means that, due to the ranking system applied to applications in this situation, unless the role that a UK company wishes a non-EEA national to undertake will pay an annual salary of at least £55,000, or maybe even higher in the future, it will not be able to sponsor the individual to work in the UK.  The minimum salary that those being sponsored under Tier 2 (General) must normally be paid is £30,000. The only exception is if the role appears on the UK Home Office's shortage occupation list.  However, the roles on this list tend to be highly specialist positions mainly within the healthcare, power generation and IT gaming industries.

The result is that we are now seeing many clients who are struggling to fill well paid jobs which require skills which are in short supply in the local labour market.  At a time of record low unemployment and when companies are seeing a drop in the number of job applications they are receiving from EEA nationals, this could have a significant impact on the UK economy.  Employers are therefore actively exploring different routes to enable them to hire individuals with the required skills.  However, these routes are often temporary in nature and therefore not ideal when companies are looking to hire people to address long term recruitment needs. It is therefore to be hoped that the Home Office takes steps to raise the Tier 2 limit to assist businesses in continuing to develop at a time when the UK economy is experiencing low growth.