There is in effect a Tier 2 visa cap due to the restricted certificate of sponsorship shortage (CoS), which is preventing Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge from recruiting the junior doctors it needs, senior healthcare staff say. They say that the existing Tier 2 visa quota restrict the Cambridge hospital which has a tier 2 sponsorship licence from hiring well trained medical staff, with good English, from overseas, despite having vacancies that can’t otherwise be filled.
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For about four months now there has been a shortage of restricted certificates of sponsorship, that usually allow hospitals and others from employing people from outside the EU. For occupations not on the tier 2 shortage occupation list or on the list of PhD level occupations, many employers are finding that salary rates are not high enough to gain enough points for a restricted CoS. People will be waiting anxiously to see what happens this month and in future months. Some employers may try to fill vacancies by employing people who do not come under the tier 2 visa quota such as tier 4 visa students, and other non EU/EEA nationals curently in the UK who can switch to a tier 2 visa from within the UK.
According to recent records, three doctors from India, Pakistan and The Caribbean, who had been hired by Addenbrooke’s hospital, were recently refused Tier 2 visas. Senior figures at the hospital claim that they are short staffed, leaving them with an increased workload and left with no option but to hire expensive locums.
Government records reveal that fewer Brits are currently training in medicine and with Brexit now imminent, fewer medically trained people are arriving in Britain from the European Union.
Tier 2 visa cap counterproductive
Cambridge’s MP has described the Tier 2 visa cap as ‘counterproductive’. The NHS as a whole relies on non-EU medical staff, and it’s no secret that the country’s health service is under strain and facing a staffing crisis.
However, the Home Office is making it increasingly more difficult for non-EU citizens to come to Britain. The Tier 2 visa, and its associated costs, can easily surpass a thousand pounds and will cost more if an applicant brings family to Britain.
A statement released by the Home Office said: “It is important that our immigration system works in the national interest, ensuring that employers look first to the UK resident labour market before recruiting from overseas. We estimate that around a third of all Tier 2 places go to the NHS.”
Meanwhile, the NHS has urged the government to ease Tier 2 visa restrictions. Chief executive of NHS employers, Danny Mortimer, said: “NHS organisations are becoming increasingly concerned at their inability to obtain permits for essential medical colleagues.”
Tier 2 visa cap reached for third month in a row
For the first time ever, the number of Tier 2 applicants has exceeded the monthly limit for three consecutive months – December, January and February. Those being rejected are expected to reapply for a limited number of Tier 2 visas allocated each month.
The NHS in particular is being hit extremely hard by the restrictions because the Tier 2 points-based system prioritises applications for roles with higher salaries. The salary threshold has fluctuated in recent months as demand for visas far exceeds availability. According to the Home Office, the lowest eligible salary in January was £46,000.
In Addenbrooke hospital’s case, the junior doctors they seek to hire would earn too little. Mortimer said: “We are in touch with both government officials and business membership bodies to find a way forward that works for both employers and the government.”
There are rumours circulating that the Home Office is considering exemption from Tier 2 visa rules for NHS employers, a move that would reduce the strain on Britain’s healthcare system.
Since becoming Home Secretary in 2016, Amber Rudd has pushed for changes to the UK immigration regime. However, former Home Secretary and now Prime Minister, Theresa May has resisted any relaxation of the rules.
Meanwhile, the Home Office has neither confirmed nor denied discussions over Tier 2 visa exemptions for NHS employers. The government agency reiterated that the immigration system must operate in the national interest, ensuring that employers look to the UK-resident labour market prior to hiring from overseas.
“The points-based system gives priority to some jobs requiring a PhD and shortage occupations, including a number of medical roles,” the Home Office said.
In the meantime, according to UK immigration experts, the Tier 2 visa cap looks set to be reached in March and April – heading into the new financial year. They’re warning employers to ‘expect a scramble’ for available visas.
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