In a letter to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) last week, Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP (BAL) and the Global Immigration Benchmarking Association (IBA) submitted comments and recommendations detailing how the U.K. government’s proposed restrictions on Tier 2 skilled migration routes would impact economic growth and job creation in the U.K.

The comments were submitted in response to the MAC’s call for evidence from business organizations and other stakeholders. The U.K. government has asked the MAC to gather evidence and report its recommendations on changes to the Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) routes by the end of the year.

The IBA, an association of in-house professionals advocating pro-growth global immigration policies, consulted with a number of companies regarding the MAC’s call for evidence. BAL, a global corporate immigration law firm that represents the leading companies in almost every industry, leveraged its extensive experience in government advocacy to support IBA’s submission.

The comments submitted by IBA are summarized as follows:

  • Eliminating the right to work of spouses of Tier 2 workers would deter high-skilled migrants from accepting jobs in the U.K.

A spouse’s ability to seek employment is a critical factor in a high-skilled migrant’s decision to bring his or her talent to the U.K. as it has a profound impact on a migrant’s ability to integrate and assimilate into a new community. The government’s proposal to eliminate this benefit would make the U.K. a less attractive destination compared to other countries, which are trending in the opposite direction by affording spouses the right to work.

  • Restricting the Tier 2 route would harm the U.K. economy.

Reducing the number of migrants to the tens of thousands would cause the country’s GDP to decline by 11 percent and require an offsetting increase in the labor income tax rate, according to a recent report. Technology allows multinational companies to move or shift operations to access the best talent. If Tier 2 routes were restricted, companies operating in the U.K. would likely consider relocating, causing heavy losses to the U.K.’s economy.

Further, the current cap of 20,700 on Tier 2 (General) visas is unlikely to satisfy the growing demand for high-skilled labor. Because the monthly quotas have been reached in recent months, the government should take this opportunity to increase the annual cap or allow for the ceiling to adjust based on market demand.

  • Tightening of the Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) route would inhibit job creation and investment in the U.K.

The Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) route allows U.K. companies to transfer skills and knowledge among its employees, promote career progression and maintain connectivity throughout the business. New restrictions or per-company caps on ICTs would hit start-up companies especially hard by stifling their ability to grow and transfer employees to the U.K.

A record number of start-ups were created in the U.K. in 2014 and even more (600,000) are expected in 2015. Start-ups and rapidly growing companies rely on ICTs to bring knowledge of company systems to train new U.K. employees. Placing a cap on ICTs or otherwise tightening the ICT route would deter companies from forming and creating jobs in the U.K.

  • The Resident Labour Market Test and Shortage Occupations List should be modernized.

The Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) should be modernized to reflect today’s recruitment environment, including use of online, industry-specific job ads, to ensure that job openings are broadly transmitted. Employers should be allowed to submit their recruitment practices for pre-approval and, once approved, they should not need to undergo a secondary RLMT.

The government should allow employers to recruit the best candidate for the job – rather than merely a “suitable” candidate – regardless of nationality. Imposing a recruiting and hiring standard that does not match real-world practices will deter companies from operating in the U.K.

The Shortage Occupations List should be updated more frequently to reflect the labor market, but should not be the sole means of determining whether a shortage exists and should continue to be used with the RLMT.

The MAC’s public comment period ended Sept. 25. Its recommendations to the government on Tier 2 reforms is expected by mid-December. BAL is closely following this matter and will report further developments on these important issues.

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