Migration Advisory Committee Report Implications For Tech Talent

A recent report ‘EEA Migration in the UK’ published by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommended that there should be no preferential access to the UK for EU citizens post Brexit.

The report was commissioned to provide evidence for the design of a new migration system and found that there is evidence that immigration has, on average, a positive impact on productivity; some evidence that this impact is larger for high-skilled migrants than lower-skilled migrants and that high-skilled immigrants increase innovation.

The recommendations focus on making it easier for higher skilled workers to migrate to the UK which is good news for non-EU Tech Talent and will be broadly welcomed by tech businesses struggling to recruit software developers, software engineers, data scientists, Cyber security specialists, DevOps Engineers etc from today’s limited talent pool.

It is, however, disadvantageous for EU workers who currently enjoy free movement. If free movement provision ends, the MAC report suggests that a modified Tier 2 sponsored route could be extended to cover all EEA and non-EEA nationals.

These are the recommended changes:

  • abolishing the annual Tier 2 cap of 20,700 per year
  • expanding this route to cover medium-skilled roles as well as highly skilled roles which would make an additional 142 occupations potentially eligible for Tier 2 (General), provided they meet the minimum salary threshold of £30,000 pa
  • making EEA nationals subject to the Immigration Skills Surcharge, which would add up to £5,000 to the cost of employing an individual with a five-year visa
  • abolishing the ‘resident labour market test’ – the advertising and recruitment process that is often required before an employer is able to sponsor someone under the Tier 2 (General) category
  • relaxing the requirement that employers may only sponsor someone if there is no suitable settled worker and allowing employers to appoint the best candidate
  • allowing Tier 2 migrants to switch employers more easily

The additional costs and administration involved mean that any extension of the Tier 2 sponsored regime to EEA nationals will result in higher recruitment costs for employers.

If the recommendations are adopted, even if highly skilled EEA nationals are able to come to the UK in the future, this would inevitably involve additional administration, which could deter tech talent from coming to take up roles, given they could travel freely to another EEA country.

So where to from here? The MAC report acknowledges that free movement within the EU has given UK citizens the symmetric freedom to migrate to other EU countries and that an implementation period is likely to be needed until 31st December 2020.