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Statement regarding the migration report

20 September 2018

We have responded to the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) report on European Economic Area (EEA) migration, which makes a number of recommendations for a post-Brexit system for work-based immigration.

We welcome both the scope and depth of the report but has concerns about the potential for an overall cap on migration, and the impact of additional bureaucracy on the number of veterinary surgeons in the United Kingdom.

The report recommends that the path is smoothed for higher-skilled workers to migrate to the UK, as well as recommending non-preferential treatment for EU citizens over non-EU citizens on the assumption that UK immigration policy will not form part of an agreement with the EU. This would allow us to ensure consistent and comparable standards of education for veterinary surgeons entering the UK workforce.

We are pleased that the report recommends the removal of the cap on the number of migrants under Tier 2, the visa level for highly-skilled migrants under which vets are classified. It also welcomes the MAC’s recent recommendation that there should be no cap on overseas student numbers.

However, for those EU-qualified veterinary surgeons applying to register in the UK, the MAC’s recommendations would mean increased visa bureaucracy, and for their employers it would mean the additional financial burden of having to pay the Immigration Skills Charge. We are concerned that this additional barrier would deter applicants at a time when the UK already faces a shortage of veterinary surgeons, and it recommends that neither vets who are on the RCVS Register of Veterinary Surgeons, nor the practices who employ them, should face additional immigration fees or bureaucracy.

Amanda Boag, RCVS President, stated: “We welcome such a detailed, evidence-based report into the present and future of EEA migration. However, each recommendation would create ripple effects through the veterinary profession with a potential impact on animal health and welfare, and public health. With nearly half of new registrants to the College every year being from the EEA, it is critically important for Government to consider this impact carefully.

“Lifting the cap on Tier 2 high-skilled workers, for example, could be a potential boon for the veterinary profession, as after Brexit this would be the likely avenue for veterinary surgeons from the EEA and elsewhere to work in the UK. However, whilst a cap on immigration remains, there could be a real struggle to recruit all the veterinary surgeons we need. We currently rely on over 1,000 overseas vets – nearly all of whom are from the EU – registering with us every year, and we would be competing with many other sectors for visas, including human healthcare.

“Finally, added bureaucracy in the immigration system would have predictable and inevitable knock-on effects for employers – we would certainly warn against any steps that would lead to delays and complications, such as veterinary practices needing to sponsor employees’ visas.

“We, along with partners in the industry, have been lobbying Government to place veterinary surgeons on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) and we will be keen to see our recommendations adopted when that review is completed, as inclusion on the SOL would streamline the process of acquiring visas.”

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