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League Tables and Migration Cap: Impact on Recruitment of International Staff

It’s that time again in the education term calendar, when league tables are released. Preferred lists include the Times Higher Education and the Guardian League Tables.

Preparing a shortlist of universities where you want to work will involve careful research and cross referencing, especially if you intend to up-root your family to further your career.

The local amenities and parking facilities are probably further down the list of factors a migrant will consider with university ranking likely to be the predominant factor. If you’re considering relocating, you want yours to be a move upwards and give your profile a real boost within your chosen field; our home grown universities in the UK certainly do that, reportedly in the field of medical research and engineering.

Coventry University has by passed many of its Russell Group peers to reach the highest position ever achieved by a former polytechnic in the Guardian League Table of universities. Coventry University – we salute you!

Coventry is now placed at number 15 in the table, higher than many of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities, including Birmingham, Edinburgh, York, Leeds, Glasgow, Cardiff, Nottingham and Newcastle.

The top 3 universities on the table, have remained the same. Cambridge retained the number one position for a fifth year running, and Oxford and St Andrews held their respective places in second and third.

London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) was the only university to fall out of the top 10. This made room for the University of Exeter. Congratulations to Exeter!

We would expect Coventry and Exeter to experience a noticeable difference with the applications they receive in the next academic year, from both international staff and students.

The UK education system is still one of the most well-respected in the world where lecturers and academics alike will naturally be attracted to universities within the top end of the league tables.

Now would be the ideal time to ensure the HR immigration teams at universities at the top end of the league table are well equipped to deal with the expected overseas interest, particularly from international staff looking to join them.

On 11 June 2015, the cap on Tier 2 (General) visas was reached for the first time since the policy was first implemented in April 2011. Many Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship were not issued to U.K. Tier 2 Sponsors who will now have to pass the news on to departments and faculties to evaluate the impact of the delay (or the prevention of entry) on timetables and staffing.

“Why did this happen?” was the main cry of immigration lawyers on 11th June, when the email notices began filtering through. We have been told by the Home Office that due to a trend of relatively high requests for UK Tier 2 (General) Certificates in April, the allocation for that month as re-balanced.

This is unprecedented and critically impacts the potential for Sponsors to bring Tier 2 migrants into the United Kingdom. Where applications for Certificates were refused this month, the earliest that Sponsors may be able to secure a Certificate will be on the 11th of the following month (where a fresh application is made before the 5th of that month).

However, with those facing refusals in June likely to reapply in July, going forward employers may find themselves unable to sponsor migrants for some roles indefinitely.

20,700 Tier 2 (General) Certificates are made available on 6 April each year. These Certificates are subdivided and released on a monthly basis. Any un-allocated Certificates are carried over to the following month up until 5 April of the following year when the allocation is reset to 20,700. The allocation for the month of April 2015 was re-balanced from 1,725 to 2,550. This resulted in 75 fewer Certificates available per month for the remainder of the year (ie. 1,650).

Once the cap is reached, the Home Office will start using the points-based allocation system to determine which migrants get Certificates in that month. This also could cause a knock-on effect as the lack of availability will coincide with the increased demand for Certificates from Sponsors who were not able to secure them in the preceding month.

All eligible applications will be prioritized using the points scored in a published table.

As the applications relating to phD. level roles and roles listed on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) are relatively uncommon, most applications will score 30 points for a completed Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), plus the designated points for the relevant salary band to make up a minimum of 32 points.

Although an application for a Certificate must achieve at least 32 points, roles scoring less than 50 points were rejected among June’s applications. Effectively this means that non-Ph.D. non-SOL roles need a gross annual salary package of more than £46,000 to be approved.

We have been advised that over 394 applications fell within the salary package band of £32,000 – £45,999 per annum. As there are no rules of priority in relation to applications that score the same number of points, all the applications for roles falling within the £32,000 – £45,999 were refused. The result of this is that the 394 remaining Certificates have been carried over into July’s allocation.

Following the exhaustion of Certificates for June 2015, we would expect a high volume of applications for Certificates with gross annual salary packages of between £32,000 and £45,999 to be submitted, as Sponsors that were unable to secure Certificates in June are likely to re-apply in July.

If the number of applications for Certificates for roles with gross annual salary packages of £46,000 and above remains as high as in June, we are likely to see further blanket refusals for applications with corresponding salary packages in the bands immediately below it. However, the roll-over of 394 Certificates from June into July will go some way to restoring the imbalance.

There are only two ‘Restricted Certificate’ allocation months to ensure your international academic staff are in the UK, settled in and ready before the start the next academic year. In light of the Tier 2 category being oversubscribed, it would be prudent to ensure your HR and immigration staff are up to date to provide advice on alternative immigration categories that may suit the proposed employment term, such as Youth Mobility, Ancestry, a spouse or unmarried partner visa under the Immigration Rules or the EEA Regulations 2006 or Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange).

Ensuring your HR staff and induction materials are up to date with the immigration categories will be crucial to moving into the next academic year as smoothly as possible.

If you require assistance or in-house training, please contact us on 020 7494 0118.

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