Further Information Released in Respect of Annual Limits

24th November 2010

As reported yesterday, the Home Secretary has announced a number of prospective changes to immigration policy in respect of Tiers 1 and 2 of the points-based system (PBS). The changes will be implemented in April 2011, in order to assist with the delivery of the Government’s manifesto commitment to place a limit on non-EEA economic migration to the UK each year, and reduce net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’ by the end of this Parliament.

The UK Border Agency has today released further information in respect of those changes.

Tier 1

As anticipated in our update on 28 October 2011, the Government has answered the question as to whether there should be a separate category for the highly skilled by announcing the closing of the self sponsored Tier 1 (General) route.

The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route will be reformed, introducing flexibilities and creating a new avenue for promising start-up companies which do not meet current investment thresholds, as a means to make it a more attractive route for those with a definite business plan to contribute to the UK economy. Similarly the Tier 1 (Investor) route will also be reformed to offer an accelerated route to settlement, depending on the level of investment. Each route remains outside of the permanent April 2011 cap.

The Home Secretary has also announced that she will consult further on the possibility of closing the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) route, which allows international graduates who have studied in the UK a 2 year permission of further stay, and provides a bridge to highly skilled or skilled work.

As the Tier 1 (General) route closes, another Tier 1 route will open, albeit with severely limited space. A route for persons of exceptional talent will be introduced, covering migrants who have won international recognition in scientific and cultural fields, or who show sufficient exceptional promise to be awarded such recognition in the future. Applications by those with exceptional promise will require endorsement by a competent body in the relevant field. The ‘exceptional talent’ category will be subject to a limit of 1,000 places.

Tier 2

The Tier 2 (General) route, for applicants earning a salary of less than £150,000 per annum, will be subject to a limit of 20,700 places for 2011/12. This limit will not apply to in-country applications from those already here, or dependants. Additionally, Tier 2 (General) applications will be restricted to only graduate-level vacancies. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has been asked to advise on what are to be considered graduate-level jobs, and upon receipt of that advice the shortage occupation list will be amended accordingly. Existing Tier 2 (General) migrants in jobs below graduate level will be able to extend their permission to stay if they meet current requirements.

The minimum level of English language competency for Tier 2 (General) applications will be increased from basic to intermediate level (B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference).

Applications for certificates of sponsorship will, where the limit applies, be considered on a monthly basis. If the monthly allocation is oversubscribed, applications will be ranked according to:

1. shortage occupations in the first instance;

2. whether the post requires higher academic qualifications; and

3. salary.

Tier 2 (Intra company transfer) migrants are excluded from the annual limit. However, the immigration rules will be changed so that only intra-company transferees in the ‘Established staff’ sub-category paid more than £40,000 will be able to stay in the UK for up to 5 years; those paid between £24,000 and £40,000 will be able to enter for up to 12 months within a specified period.

Current rules will remain in place in respect of Tier 2 (Intra company transfer) migrants in the ‘Graduate trainee’ and ‘Skills transfer’ sub-categories. Similarly, the Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) and Tier 2 (Sportspeople) categories remain outside of the annual limit.

Settlement

In response to the MAC’s recommendation that the Government consider current rules concerning settlement of Tier 1 and Tier 2 migrants, the UKBA has announced that there will be a new criminality threshold, requiring applicants to be clear of unspent convictions, for all those applying for settlement. Additionally, both Tier 1 and Tier 2 migrants applying for settlement will need to meet the salary criteria that applied when they last extended their permission to stay. Further, if an applicant fails to pass the minimum English language requirement, their application for settlement will be refused.

Further Consultations

As well as the proposed consultation in respect of closing Tier 1 (Post Study Work), the Home Secretary has also indicated that the Government will consult on those coming to the UK under the Tier 4 student or family route. The rationale for closing the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) was made clear:

‘I will also consult on closing the post-study route, which last year allowed some 38,000 foreign graduates to enter the UK labour market at a time when one in 10 UK graduates were unemployed.’

Additionally, the student and family routes account for 80% of net migration to the UK. If the Government is to achieve its target of reducing net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’ by the end of this Parliament, it will have to address urgently the numbers who are coming into the UK in the non-economic migration categories.

For further information please contact us at: Immigration@magrath.co.uk or on 020 7495 3003