To support the development of a new immigration system, CaSE has published a briefing that summarises the current non-EEA immigration system, reviews the Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendations, sets out where the pressure points are for science and engineering and presents our proposals for a new system.

Summary 

Access to a workforce with the right skills and expertise is the cornerstone of a thriving environment for research and innovation. In order to meet the Government’s target of investing 2.4% of GDP on R&D by 2027 we will need to increase the size of the research and innovation workforce. Alongside a gear change in domestic skills policy, immigration policy that supports the science and engineering will be crucial.  

This message has been heard by policymakers and has public support, but we now need a system that will deliver for the UK.

86% of the British public want to increase or maintain levels of immigration of scientists and engineers, and only 18% of leave-voters want migration of scientists and engineers to decrease.

Time to get it right, British Future, 2017

Seize the opportunity for a fresh start

Expanding the current non-EEA system will not meet the needs of science and engineering. For the Prime Minister’s stated ambition to become a reality, the UK must create a streamlined immigration system that facilitates frictionless movement, has proportionate system rules, is founded on robust evidence and is fit for the future. The policy and process tweaks proposed by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) are not sufficient. We propose using the new digital platform developed for the EEA settlement scheme as the starting point for building a new system.

Expanding the curret system is not a viable solution

Our members are clear that expanding the current non-EEA system to cover all migration would introduce substantial barriers to research and innovation and would reduce the competitiveness of the UK environment for science and engineering. 

  1. Due to bureaucracy and cost
  2. And barriers to research and innovation workforce

Features and proposals for a new system

The MAC recommendations are given in the context that the UK does not pursue an agreement on mobility with the EU. The MAC’s evidence showed that EU migrants have not prevented UK nationals from getting jobs, have not lowered wages and have, on average, contributed more to public services than they receive, especially higher skill migrants. However, their recommendations are not proportionate to the evidence they collected on the effects of migration in the UK. Rather, they propose minor tweaks, some of which are welcome, to the current tiered system. 

As changes to the existing system, we welcome recommendations of abolishing the numerical cap on skilled workers through Tier 2, removing the Resident Labour Market Test as other features of the system better protect undercutting (and MAC found no evidence of undercutting in Tier 2, rather a migrant premium), and highlighting the need to reduce bureaucracy. However, we assess recommendations against the types of people, types of movement and principles of a system needed to support a thriving science and engineering environment post-Brexit and conclude expanding the current system, even with the MAC recommendations, would not result in a new system that meets the needs of science and engineering.

You can download the full briefing and read the accompanying press release.

CaSE Assistant Director Naomi Weir has also written a piece on CaSE's new immigration policy briefing and the need to develop a non-EEA migration system that works for science and engineering.