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CaSE responds to Government immigration white paper

19 Dec 2018

As CaSE has argued, the UK’s migration environment is a vital part of the UK’s competitiveness in science and engineering

Commenting on the immigration white paper, CaSE Executive Director Dr Sarah Main said:  

“Access to international talent is a top priority for the science and engineering sector.”

“The expansion of the visa system to all poses risks to research and innovation in the UK that will need to be addressed if the UK is to become ‘a global centre for scientific discovery and creativity’ as the Prime Minister wishes.” 

“The Government’s changes to the visa route for skilled workers are necessary and encouraging, particularly removing the cap on skilled workers that CaSE demonstrated was so damaging this year. However, there remain several areas of concern, for example for R&D tech start-ups and for technicians. These could combine to reduce the attractiveness of the UK for people with in-demand skills.”

“With publication of the Immigration White Paper, Parliament now has the opportunity to ensure the UK’s migration system is an asset to our global scientific competitiveness and not a hindrance.”  

Skills below salary threshold

“There are many skilled people whose salaries fall below the proposed threshold of £30,000 in scientific roles, such as technician experts in universities and manufacturing, health and care workers. The proposed temporary 12 month visa will not be sufficient to recruit people in to these vital roles.”

Workers earning below £30,000 are ineligible for a visa. Half of EU research technicians in universities would not meet the salary threshold. This is also a major concern for accessing crucial technical skills across science and engineering industry, especially in manufacturing, something the Industrial Strategy is looking to grow.  

High growth, innovative businesses

“Most start-up businesses are not visa sponsors. The time and cost burden of becoming sponsors may be too great for many and would therefore limit their ability to recruit in-demand talent quickly. It is good that the Government has recognised the need to address this burden and we look forward to hearing their proposals.”

Employers must register as sponsors and currently only 2% of UK businesses are registered. Becoming a sponsor takes at least 2 months and significant business time, added to a recruitment process of at least 2 months, meaning that for small companies and fast-moving sectors it may be too long to wait to bring in critical skills or expertise, reducing the competitiveness of the UK environment. Furthermore, it costs £500-1500 annually for a sponsor licence, plus upfront costs per worker of £200 to apply for a certificate of sponsorship, up to £1000 immigration skills charge per year of visa and £200 per year for the NHS surcharge. This is compared to no additional costs for EEA nationals at present.   

In September CaSE wrote a joint letter to the Home Secretary with the BioIndustry Association and TechUK cautioning that an expansion of the non-EEA system would pose significant problems for businesses, particularly small, high growth innovative businesses.

Alternative proposal

CaSE has published a new policy briefing, highlighting the consensus that expanding the current non-EEA migration system to cover all migration would not meet the needs of science and engineering. Produced in advance of the immigration white paper, the briefing advocates creating a new streamlined and proportionate immigration system, founded on robust evidence and fit for the future. The new digital platform developed for the EEA settlement scheme could be used as a starting point for such a system.


  • CaSE published a policy briefing ‘Proposing a New Immigration System’ on 3rd December 2018 which 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 proposals for a new system.
  • You can read CaSE’s joint letter to the Home Secretary cautioning against an expansion of the non EEA system.
  • You can read CaSE’s analysis of the Migration Advisory Committee’s recent report on EEA migration to the UK.
  • Earlier this year CaSE published a new immigration briefing, which calls on the government to rebuild confidence in the short term (amending visa rules, improving immigration messaging and providing confidence during the Brexit transition), and create a streamlined system in the long term that supports research and innovation.
  • Read all our work on immigration policy.