TIGA, the network for video games developers and digital publishers and the trade association representing the video games industry, has responded to the Migration Advisory Committee’s Call for Evidence on the Salary Threshold and Points-Based System Commission.
On 24 June 2019, the Home Secretary commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to advise on the future system of salary thresholds and the level at which they could be set. The MAC recommended maintaining existing salary thresholds for all migrants under Tier 2 visas. The existing salary to be paid for an occupation is set at the 25th percentile of the full-time earnings or £30,000, whichever is higher. In September 2019, the MAC announced a Call for Evidence asking for feedback regarding the range of potential options with respect to setting a salary threshold, including the possibility of an Australian-style points-based immigration system.
TIGA has offered the following recommendations to the Government and the MAC:
- The Government should retain and continue to update the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). The Government should also consider introducing a fast track (14 day process) visa programme for roles on the SOL to enable UK employers to recruit quickly and signal to foreign skilled workers that they are welcome in the UK.
- The MAC should recommend that the Government refrains from increasing the Tier 2 salary threshold from circa £24,000 (e.g. Programmers and software development professional) to £30,000. If the UK Government’s previously stated minimum salary of £30,000 becomes policy, this may create challenges, as according to TIGA research the current median and average graduate level salary in this survey stands at less than £24,000. Feedback from TIGA members states that they have been unable to pursue some appropriately qualified overseas candidates requiring Tier 2 General Visas because the salary for the role they would be performing is under the threshold required.
- The Government and the MAC should consider ways to make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to recruit workers via the Tier 2 points based system. At present, SMEs report that the application process to become a Tier 2 sponsor is complex, lengthy and expensive.
- If the Government introduces a points-based system, TIGA recommends that the top three criteria (earning the most points) should be: ‘work experience’; ‘having a job offer’ and ‘language proficiency’.
Commenting on the MAC’s Call for Evidence, Dr Richard Wilson OBE, Chief Executive of TIGA, said:
“The UK video games industry currently suffers from skills shortages. TIGA research indicates that approximately 20 per cent of the games development workforce originates from other EU countries and 5 per cent come from other countries outside the EU. The games sector requires ready access to non-UK workers to fill high and medium skilled roles. If it cannot access them via the UK’s future immigration system, or is prevented from doing so by high salary thresholds, then this would exacerbate skills shortages, which in turn would result in the loss of jobs and investment.
“The Government should regularly update the SOL to enable UK employers to recruit quickly and signal to foreign skilled workers that they are welcome in the UK.
“A minimum salary requirement of £30,000 for skilled migrants seeking five-year visas could be challenging for our sector. Some skilled migrants in the UK games industry are paid less than £30,000. Looking ahead, the UK Government could consider lower salary requirements for EU workers as part of a trade deal with the EU.
“If the Government introduces a points-based system, TIGA suggests that the top three criteria earning the most points should be: ‘work experience’; ‘having a job offer’ and ‘language proficiency’.
“TIGA will continue to engage with the Government and the MAC to ensure the UK’s migration system enables our sector to access to the very best global talent.”
 TIGA, Skills, Training and Education (TIGA, 2016); Wilson, R., TIGA Business Opinion Survey 2018-19 (TIGA, 2019).