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CaSE welcomes ‘fresh look’ at Tier 2 visa cap by Home Secretary

04 Jun 2018

CaSE has responded to the Home Secretary’s comments on yesterday’s Andrew Marr show, indicating that he would take a ‘fresh look’ at the Home Office’s visa cap on the number of skilled workers coming to the UK.

This follows CaSE’s publication of a Freedom of Information request response from the Home Office last month giving the number of Tier 2 (General) Certificates of Sponsorship that were refused due to the annual cap in each month between December 2017 and March 2018. The figures reveal that since December, the Government have refused over 6,000 applications for skilled overseas workers holding a job offer due to an arbitrary cap on visas, including engineers, tech professionals, doctors and teachers.

Commenting on the Home Secretary’s interview, CaSE Executive Director Dr Sarah Main said: 

“A fresh look at immigration is what’s needed, and I welcome the Home Secretary’s candid and pragmatic approach. The Tier 2 cap is putting blocks in the way of engineering and tech in businesses across the economy, as well as medical roles in the NHS. 

Since uncovering the data on the scale of visa refusals, I have heard from employers struggling with the cap. Let’s not have another month when hundreds of business professionals, programmers, engineers and doctors are turned away from the UK. 

Employers have to advertise these jobs in the UK first and only if no-one suitable is found can they recruit globally. We must look to develop home-grown skills where there are gaps, but we must also welcome great people from around the world where they are needed and want to contribute to the UK.”

CaSE has been highlighting the arbitrary nature of the Tier 2 visa cap and its negative effect on the recruitment of skilled workers since 2015. In the immediate term, we’ve now called on shortage and PhD level roles to be made exempt from the cap, and in the longer-term, for Government to develop an immigration system for a Global Britain that supports research and innovation.

The Tier 2 visa cap has further been breached in April and May, and CaSE is working with those in Parliament and across the science, engineering, and healthcare sectors to identify those numbers.


  1. CaSE is the leading independent advocate for science and engineering. Find out more at 
  2. You can view the Home Secretary’s full comments from Sunday 2nd June 2018 on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr show.
  3. Following the Home Secretary’s comments, CaSE Deputy Director Naomi Weir has written a comment piece examining the Government’s immigration policy and suggesting what might happen next.
  4. CaSE published the original FOI request response from the Home Office on 16th May 2018.
  5. CaSE also published further breakdown and analysis of the FOI refusal numbers.
  6. You can view the full set of data CaSE received in response to the FOI detailing refusals by SOC code by month.
  7. You can read all of CaSE’s immigration work.
  8. General Notes on the Tier 2 Visa cap:
  • The Government policy of an annual cap on Tier 2 (General) visas was introduced in 2011. Before December 2017 the cap had only been breached once, June 2015, when 66 engineering roles were refused.
  • The Government holds a Shortage Occupation List. Three quarters of these are in science, technology, engineering or medicine.  
  • This recommendation is taken from CaSE’s recent immigration report, 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. 
  • In March, CaSE published a letter 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 was supported by over 40 organisations from across business, universities, ​professional institutes, and research charities.
  • To mark the anniversary of the triggering of article 50, CaSE has published a new Brexit report with policy asks from the science and engineering sector on people, funding and regulation.

    FOI response details (originally published on 16th May 2018):
  • Between December 2017 and March 2018, 6080 Tier 2 (General) Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) were refused due the number of applications exceeding the cap imposed by the Government (the annual cap is 20,700 with a specific allocation set for each month).
  • Of all eligible applications for a Tier 2 (General) CoS: in December 36% were refused; in January 47% were refused; in February 48% were refused; in March 59% were refused.
  • Within the 6080 eligible applications refused a CoS due to the annual cap, were:
    • 412 Engineering roles 
    • 1226 IT & Technology roles 
    • 197 Teacher roles (9 STEM teachers)
    • 1518 Doctor roles
    • 362 Other healthcare professional roles 
    • 1815 Professional services
    • 550 All other professions 

This figure of 6080 is the number of applications that were refused, not the number of individuals affected as an employer could reapply the following month for a CoS for the same role.