CaSE has today published a cross-sector letter sent to the Prime Minister, calling on the government to take urgent action in revising current immigration policy to better attract international research and innovation talent.

The letter is supported by over 45 organisations from across business, universities, ​professional institutes, and research charities.

Training and attracting talented people is critical to the success of the Industrial Strategy and to the UK’s productivity. Alongside nationwide efforts to develop the UK's domestic skills base, it will always be desirable to attract talent from abroad. However this is currently being hampered by the cap on Tier 2 (General) visas - the main route for international skilled workers to enter the UK workplace. Due to the cap being reached in each of the last three months, hundreds of business-critical roles across the economy are going unfilled, and repeated visa rejections are ​damaging​ the UK's international appeal.

CaSE's letter today calls on the government to take positive action in recognition that circumstances have significantly changed since the Tier 2 visa cap was introduced, and to exempt roles on the Government's​ Shortage Occupation List and PhD level roles from the cap. Such a move would be widely welcomed; relieving pressure on the cap, renewing business-confidence, and enhancing prospects for boosting the UK's economic prosperity.

Commenting on the letter, CaSE Executive Director Dr Sarah Main said:

"Surely it is shooting ourselves in the foot to deny visas to engineering, tech and medical specialists ​recruited to the UK to fill a specific need. Yet this is now happening, alongside many other business-critical roles, leaving employers frustrated and the public poorly served. 

To​ ​relieve pressure on the system, roles on the Government's Shortage Occupation List and PhD level roles should be made exempt from the Tier 2 visa cap. This would allow recognised skills shortages to be filled and would create the headroom to allow the visa cap to operate effectively for other business roles."

CaSE has also published a policy review with broader recommendations for the overhaul of the UK immigration system which can be found.

CaSE cross-sector letter to the Prime Minister on revising current immigration restrictions

7th March 2018

Dear Prime Minister,

Training and attracting talented people is critical to the success of the Government’s Industrial Strategy and to the UK’s productivity. Currently two thirds of roles on the Shortage Occupation List are in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine, demonstrating the Government’s recognition of demand in these areas. Alongside nationwide efforts to develop our domestic skills base, it will always be desirable to attract talent from abroad.

Productivity will suffer if firms cannot access the talent they need. Due to the cap on Tier 2 (General) visas being reached in each of the last three months, hundreds of business-critical roles across the economy are going unfilled. Employers need a predictable immigration system. The implementation of the cap on Tier 2 visas undermines business confidence and could damage productivity.

Research and innovation is a global endeavour and Government statements have been clear on the intention to be an open international partner and a magnet for scientists and innovators from across the globe. However, the repeated rejection of skilled workers due to the Tier 2 cap being reached is already damaging the UK’s international appeal.

Urgent action is needed by Government to resolve the tension between the current mode of operation of the Tier 2 (General) cap and the aims of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. There is support for such a change from the public, from business, charities and professional bodies. Polling has consistently shown that the public is overwhelming in its support for continued immigration of skilled workers, including engineers and other roles being affected by the Tier 2 cap.

We urge the Government to take this opportunity to revise the current policy and exempt roles on the Shortage Occupation List and PhD level roles from the Tier 2 cap. This would be in line with the priority already afforded to these roles and would relieve pressure on the operation of the cap, allowing other business-critical roles to be given due consideration. This change would enhance prospects for raising productivity, would support the Industrial Strategy and would be widely welcomed.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Sarah Main
Executive Director 
Campaign for Science and Engineering

This letter is supported by the following 47 organisations:



  • For a more detailed CaSE comment on reforming the Tier 2 visa immigration system see Dr Main's article for Research Fortnight, published last week.
  • In January CaSE reiterated its call for the abolishing of the Tier 2 visa cap, following an article in the Guardian that doctors with job offers in the NHS have been refused a visa in the previous two months.
  • CaSE's position on the relaxation of Tier 2 visa restrictions also received mentioned in a Financial Times article last month.
  • CaSE's new policy briefing on immigration will be published on Wednesday 14th March and will be found at:
  • The full list of supporters to the letter are as follows:
Arthritis Research UK London First
Association of Medical Research Charities London Metropolitan University
Babraham Institute Loughborough University
BASF Microbiology Society
Biochemical Society Prospect
BioIndustry Association Royal Astronomical Society
British Chambers of Commerce Royal Society of Biology
British Heart Foundation Royal Society of Chemistry
British Pharmcological Society Royal Society of Edinburgh
British Printing Industries Federation Society for Applied Microbiology
British Society for Immunology The Association for United Kingdom Interactive Entertainment
Cancer Research UK The Entrepreneurs Network
Canterbury Christ Church University The Geological Society
Council of Professors and Heads of Computing The Learned Society of Wales
EEF The Manufacturing Technologies Association
Food and Drink Federation The Physiological Society
Institute of Acoustics UK Deans of Science
Institute of Directors Ulster University
Institute of Mathematics and its Applications University College London
Institute of Physics University of Aberdeen
Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine University of Kent
Institution of Environmental Sciences Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute 
Institution of Mechanical Engineers Zoological Society of London
John Innes Centre  




Return to comment