The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee published its report, Immigration: skill shortages, on 18 December 2015.
It concludes that the annual Tier 2 limit of 20,700 certificates of sponsorship plays a restricted role in reducing net migration but has serious consequences for employers and prospective employees who find themselves unable to plan properly for the future.
In relation to international students, the report makes the following recommendations:
"We recommend that the priority given to PhD level posts in securing Certificates of
Sponsorship is maintained. (Paragraph 62)"
"Many witnesses were concerned that the current time period for people to move
from a Tier 4 study visa to a Tier 2 work visa is too short. We recommend that
the Government look again at the timetable it allows for graduates to search for
and secure posts in graduate level work and training schemes, given the significant
benefits of post-study working opportunities to our economy and our universities.
In its 2011 report on Student Visas, our predecessor Committee recommended
that the Government give consideration to either a) introducing a six month visa
to look for work with the possibility of an extension of 18 months if the applicant
has received the offer of skilled work or is a director of a company which has two
full-time equivalent employees; b) limiting the number of institutions whose
qualifications entitle the holder to post study work; and c) given concerns about
maintaining UK competitiveness in STEM research, exempting STEM graduates
from new restrictions until the domestic market is sufficiently robust. We repeat
that recommendation. (Paragraph 65)"
"Our predecessor Committee also said it was not persuaded that students are in
fact migrants, and that only if a student or former student seeks settlement—or the
length of time they have spent in the country is excessive—should their status in the
UK be regarded as that of a migrant rather than a student visitor. While recognising
that students are not migrants, we consider it essential that the number of students
on visas should be recorded and published alongside migration figures, to ensure
transparency. We note the renewed debate around the contribution international
students make to the UK’s exports. We urge the Government to look again at the
value of international students to the UK, economically, intellectually and culturally,
and consider how it might devise policies that reduce the barriers for international
students to stay in the UK and take up high skilled employment. (Paragraph 66)"
In relation to graduate trainee posts, the report states that:
"The Government should be very
concerned that international firms feel restricted in their ability to operate graduate
training schemes in the UK. This is not just about whether those firms bring in non-EU
candidates for those schemes, but whether the barriers created would incentivise
those schemes to be operated in other countries instead of the UK. Whilst this
would reduce the number of non-EU candidates coming in to the UK, it would also
reduce the opportunities for UK graduates to find training opportunities in
their chosen field without moving abroad. We do not agree that this meets the
criteria of an immigration system that provides control while attracting the
brightest and the best. We agree with the Migration Advisory Committee and recommend
that the Government exempts Certificates of Sponsorship for graduate training
schemes from the cap. (Paragraph 81)"
The Government has not yet published its response to this report. The Migration Advisory Committee is carrying out a review of Tier 2 and publication of its report is expected early in 2016.