Annual Cap Of 20,700 On Work Permits Has Never Been Reached

Business lobby have been crying “wolf”

Despite frequent complaints from businesses the annual cap on Tier 2 work permits has had virtually no impact on their ability to recruit the brightest and best from around the world.

That is the conclusion of a report being issued by Migration Watch UK, which finds that the annual cap of 20,700 has never been reached in the five years since its introduction in 2010.

Business lobby groups have for many years been warning of the damage caused to businesses by the cap. However, a recent answer to a Parliamentary Question submitted by Lord Green of Deddington has now revealed that, on an annual basis, the cap has never been reached.

In the first three years of operation the cap did not bite at all – just 54% of available Certificates of Sponsorship were used – these are the documents issued in response to a visa application and were subject to an annual cap.

In the fourth year, 2014/15, 20,087 certificates were issued out of 20,700 available, while 235 certificates were returned due to non-use. The cap was therefore not met.

In the fifth year, 2015/16, 22,037 certificates were issued (more than the cap) but almost 2,800 were returned unused or reclaimed so, once again, the cap was not reached.

In fact, since the cap was introduced the monthly limit has been breached just three times out of a total of 69 months. Some employers have therefore had to wait a month to sponsor a worker but the overall impact has been extremely limited.

Despite this factual background, the CBI warned in evidence to the Home Affairs Committee in 2015 that: ‘The cap is increasingly damaging the competitiveness of the UK as a place to invest and create jobs’. In a similar vein the Institute of Directors claimed: “The impact of the cap of 20,700 employer-sponsored skilled migration (Tier 2 general) visas has been acutely felt by IoD members. The refusal of so many applications left many employer members of the IoD short of vital skills.”

Commenting, Mr Alp Mehmet, Vice Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said:
“The business lobby have been crying wolf for years about the impact of the cap on business but it has now become clear that the annual cap has never been breached. The very same lobby is now claiming that a reduction in migration from the EU for low skilled work will be a disaster but, with their record, the public will not be convinced.”

Note to editors:

Parliamentary Question HL3312, 30 November 2016, URL:

CBI Evidence to the Home Affairs Committee

IoD Evidence to the Home Affairs Committee

4th January 2017 - Employment, Visas/Work Permits

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