Sunak called to reassess worker visa fee hike

22 August, 2023

Rishi Sunak is under pressure to reconsider an intended elevation in visa charges for migrant employees, as concerns mount over potential damage to the UK's competitive edge and its endeavours to address labour scarcities.

In correspondence disclosed to the Financial Times, John Dickie, the CEO of advocacy organisation BusinessLDN, whose membership encompasses entities such as restaurant conglomerate D&D London and coffee chain Starbucks, has implored the Prime Minister to 'evaluate the consequences of the proposed alterations on British enterprises and the economy'.

Last month, Sunak unveiled his intentions to substantially heighten fees for migrants, encompassing both workers and students, with the aim of contributing to public sector wage increases. As per the plans, the expense of a skilled worker visa valid for over three years will experience an upsurge from £1,235 to £1,480.

Simultaneously, the annual immigration health surcharge, obligatory for NHS access by migrants and frozen since 2020, is set to soar by 66%, ascending from £624 to £1,035.

Coupled with supplementary outlays like the immigration skills charge, Dickie cautions that the complete expenditure for securing a skilled worker's entry could approach £10,000, excluding costs for accompanying dependants.

John Dickie commented:

"At a time when businesses face a difficult economic outlook and are struggling with significant skills gaps, this measure undermines our competitiveness when it comes to attracting top talent compared to other countries."

Voices of concern are also being echoed by Jonathan Haseldine, the policy manager at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). He has raised apprehensions regarding the proposed escalation in immigration charges, noting that wage inflation ranks among the foremost challenges confronting businesses.

Haseldine has further reiterated the BCC's plea for the Government to broaden its roster of shortage occupation roles, streamlining overseas recruitment for sectors experiencing a scarcity of local workforce. In the hospitality sector, demands for changes to this list have been vocal for an extended period.

Earlier this year, there were indications of potential additions such as chefs and roles for restaurant and hotel managers, but these notions didn't materialise. In June, UKHospitality emphasised the necessity for chefs to be included in the UK's shortage occupation list, as articulated in the evidence submitted to the Migration Advisory Committee.

Haseldine added:

"It comes at a time when firms are also struggling with rises in interest rates, energy costs and broader inflationary pressures.

There is a limit to how much additional cost businesses can take."

Recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that vacancies within the hospitality sector reached 132,000 in May, marking a substantial 48% surge compared to the levels before the onset of the Covid pandemic.

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