Changes to immigration rules which came into force earlier this month will merely entrench existing reluctance among architects to employ non-European Union staff, according to many in the industry.
A series of changes under the 2016 Immigration Act will introduce an additional charge of up to £1,000 a year for employers looking to hire skilled employees from outside the EU.
However, many in the architecture profession say that existing rules already mean that they already steer clear of this category.
Hoskins Architects director of finance and development Jennifer Guillain said: ‘I don’t see the new rules as having much effect. We don’t currently take on staff requiring those sort of visas due to the obstacles.’
The new rules see employers with either more than 50 staff or an annual turnover of at least £10.2 million charged a £1,000 annual fee for Tier 2 staff.
In addition, the minimum salary payable to ‘experienced workers’ within the Tier 2 (General) immigration category rises from £25,000 per annum to £30,000.
Prior to the introduction of the new rules, employers were already required to place two adverts seeking ‘resident workers’ – from the UK or EU – before filling posts.
Guillain said: ‘If we put out an ad we get inundated, and to decide to hire someone without a visa over these applicants often makes little sense.”
Dave Madden, director at architectural recruitment firm Mustard, said the introduction in 2008 of a points-based immigration system, had already virtually halted recruitment from outside the EU.
‘I already don’t have one client across our business who is happy to deal with us on candidates that require help on sponsorship or applications,’ he said. ’If someone cannot work in the UK, they are not interested, mainly due to the bureaucracy involved. I don’t think the new rules will make any difference.’
But Madden added that large practices would happily pay the fee and have the resources to fill in the necessary forms.
A discounted rate of £364 per year will be charged to students and small businesses. Exemptions to the charge apply for PhD-level occupations, migrants switching from a Tier 4 student visa to a Tier 2 working visa, and existing employees moving to a UK office.
Architect Chris Dyson said that the cumulative impact of tightened immigration rules was having a negative effect on business.
‘As a professional, your networks tend to work in all sorts of ways,’ he said. ’Employing someone from outside the EU might lead to work.
‘Free-thinking people should be free to cross borders. We like to be able to pick and choose the best person whether they are foreign or European. However, prejudice is now being imposed.’