The Engineer – a leading publication for the UK's manufacturing sector – says that new Tier 2 visa rules, due to take effect on April 6, 2016, will be harmful to the nation's manufacturing industry. In particular, The Engineer says UK immigration plans to introduce a higher salary threshold to gain permanent residence set at £35K, will lead to low income migrants having to leave the UK.
New Tier 2 visa legislation, which will be introduced for indefinite leave to remain applications under the Tier 2 (General) visa category, and the Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) and Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visa categories is being opposed in an online petition. The petition has already received 72,000 signatures.
The petition urges UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, to scrap the new Tier 2 visa rules, which effectively make it more difficult for many people to qualify for UK settlement (another term for indefinite leave to remain), most obviously those earning less than £35,000 a year.
UK Immigration Package to reduce net migration numbers
The Engineer describes the new rules as 'part of a package of measures designed to reduce net immigration to the UK.' The most recent data released by the Office for National Statistics puts the net immigration number at 330,000 in the year to March 2015, a figure that is more than three times higher than the government's desired target.
Unsurprisingly, Theresa May has staunchly defended the new Tier 2 visa pay threshold, saying that it will better serve Britain's economy by attracting only the 'brightest and best' immigrants to the UK.
UK permanent residence £35,000 salary requirement opposed
However, the £35K salary threshold is not without opposition, with an increasing number of UK business leaders becoming more vocal in their opposition to the cap, which is well above the average UK salary of £26,500.
According to The Engineer, critics have described the income threshold as 'unfairly draconian', with many arguing that it will have a 'devastating impact' on many industries who rely substantially on skilled workers from outside the European Union.
Skills shortage in engineering a concern
The Engineer says that the UK engineering sectors are faced with a chronic skills shortage. In 2015, the Royal Academy of Engineering stated that the UK will require one million new engineers over the next five years. With competition for home-grown talent growing fiercer, engineering employers are increasingly searching overseas to recruit people with the skills they need.
Engineers' Employers Federation (EEF) 2015 skills survey
A 2015 EEF skills survey found that 29 per cent of UK manufacturers are not confident of being able to recruit skilled engineers from within the resident workforce. Additionally, the survey found that one in 10, or 9 per cent of manufacturers, said they were making plans to hire from outside Europe over the next three years.
Despite UK engineering salaries rising above the national average, The Engineer states that some essential non-EU immigrants needed to fill vacancies will be earning less than £35K. The Engineers own survey, carried out in 2015, found that the average salary for a junior engineer is £32K.
New immigration rules for Tier 2 visa migrants
The new pay threshold will be applicable to persons wishing to stay in the UK permanently (indefinite leave to remain) after five years of employment. Those who do not meet the new minimum income threshold will need to find some other way in which to stay in the UK or possibly extend their Tier 2 visa by another year and then leave after a total of six years in the UK.
The £35K earning requirement will not apply to anyone in an occupation on the shortage occupation list and to scientists and researchers in PhD level occupations.
The Engineer said: "The Home Secretary should look carefully at how it could impact the engineering sectors before it's too late. If the UK wants to maintain its position as a world-leader in key areas of engineering, international skills are essential. Not just to fill roles, but to help UK based firms retain an international perspective and reap the economic rewards of a broad-based and diverse workforce."
The Engineer editor, Jon Excell, said: "Whilst immigration is an issue that can't be avoided, the government needs to tread carefully to ensure it doesn't sacrifice valuable skills in its efforts to make the numbers add up."
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