Exemption for doctors and nurses unlikely to prevent filling of Tier 2 skilled visa-caps - 21st June, 2018

Exemption for doctors and nurses unlikely to prevent filling of Tier 2 skilled visa-caps


Following growing pressure, the UK announced plans regarding exempting nurses and doctors from a visa-cap on the number of skilled workers allotted to sponsor to reach the UK from areas other than the EU. This has caused immense relief to the employers, mainly in the N.H.S. An analysis explains that there is no assurance that this exemption will prevent requests for skilled visa to be refused in future.

The cap for Tier 2 (General) visas is in existence for many years, but has recently become a problem. There is an annual limit of 20,700 on obtaining the Certificates of Sponsorship by an employer for recruiting a non-EU worker. There is no difference as the volume of applications, has constantly fell-short of the 20,700 figure, until the previous year.


The demand for Certificates of Sponsorship began to exceed supply from Dec - 2017. Then the employers began to refuse requests in recruiting non-EU citizens for skilled positions that were not PhD level jobs and not existing on the shortage occupation list. Applications outside these groups are get a priority on the proposed salary basis. This had an effect on the effective salary for applicants. It increased from £30,000 to a fluctuating amount between £50,000 and £60,000.

These refusals caused controversy. Freedom of Information data suggested that many CoS applications were refused every month. The figures show that in December 2017 it was 1,093 but in March 2018 it reached 1,956. 25% refusals were for doctors and a 6% were for health professionals like pharmacists. This was the reason for the call to exempt the N.H.S. from this cap.

Nurses had a presence on the shortage occupation list in 2015 received priority over others. There was no effect by the fluctuating salary norms, or from the new exemption.

Who gets such visa?

Professionals in the Health Sector play an important role in increasing the appeal of Tier 2 visas. This was the fact in the last two fiscal years but this was not the only consideration. There is an indication of general demand from employers.

The Total of applications for Professionals in the Health Sector, increased sharply, by 3,600, between the fiscal years of 2016-17 and 2017-18. An increase in applications for research, science, engineering and technological professions explained the remaining increase.

The effect of increase in demand was that doctors and nurses took up a big share of the Tier 2 certificates issued. Their share increased from 27% to 35% in the two-year period.

The data from the Home Office shows that Tier 2 visa applications in the health and social work sector increased from 1,572 in 2011 to 6,563 in 2017.

Implications of exemptions in UK

Owing to the present exemptions, doctors applying for a Tier 2 visa need to remain in competition with other workers, for the limited number of Certificates. They only face the baseline salary threshold of £30,000, depending on the contract terms. Nurses are exempt from the salary threshold as a shortage occupation.

This exemption affects all Tier 2 occupations, as frees space for applicants in other jobs which are not on the special priority list currently. The exemption of nurses and doctors does not lead to the fact that the cap will not fill up in the present fiscal year. The pool of applicants who are refused is big and they may choose to reapply in the hope that the salary threshold will be reduced. The scenario depends on demand

The impact of exemptions

The effect of the exemption on other occupations remains tentative, as it is dependent on the number of applicants in such occupations. If it remains persistently high it will use all the places which are free.

When nurses and doctors are exempted from the cap it will have a noteworthy impact. Thousands of places will be available for other occupations in the year. This will reduce the effective salary norm also and bring it closer to the £30,000 baseline that is in operation normally.

What happens in the future depends on the demand for Tier 2 visas. If more applications from December 2017 scenario persists and in 2018 there are repeated re-applications by the same employers subsequent to refusals in the past, the pool of applicants refused will reduce as more spaces are available.

Scenario in future

In case the demand for Tier 2 visas is high owing to low net migration of EU citizens, it will encourage employers to go beyond the EU, and opt for fresh recruits. This will cause the application levels to remain high.

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