MAC Recommendations on Annual Immigration Limits Published Today

18th November 2010

Today, the Migration Advisory Committee (the “MAC”) published its recommendations to Government on the level for the 2011-12 permanent annual limit on economic migration to the UK under Tier 1 and Tier 2 of the points-based system (the “PBS”).

The recommendations are drawn from a public consultation undertaken by the MAC and carried out between 30 June-7 September 2010. In its deliberations, the Committee took into account the economic, social and public service impacts of migration.

The MAC has conceded that economic migration only accounts for a relatively small proportion of the country’s annual net migration. In order to achieve the Government’s aim of reducing net migration to the “tens of thousands”, other immigration routes must also be reduced. For example, the student and family routes.

It has also acknowledged widespread concern amongst employers regarding the impact that the limits may have. However, in order to achieve the reduction by the end of this Parliament, the Committee recommends an overall reduction for 2011/12 in the economic migration categories of between 13-25 per cent, or numerically a reduction of 6,300 to 12,600. It has conceded also that more stringent reductions should be made to the self sponsored Tier 1 category than in the employer sponsored Tier 2 category.

In respect of individual immigration routes, the MAC recommends:

Tier 1 (General)

  • A limit on the number of Tier 1 entry clearance visas issued in the range of 8000 to 11,100;
  • Periodic recalibration of the Tier 1 (General) eligibility criteria in order to attract only the most highly skilled;
  • Introducing a requirement that, upon extension, the Tier 1 (General) migrant must evidence being employed in a skilled graduate-level occupation;
  • Revision of the methodology for calculating salary multipliers in respect of applications that can rely on multiplication of their annual salary in home currency. For example, currently Indian nationals can multiply their annual salary by 5.3 in order to demonstrate a UK salary equivalent.

Tier 2

  • A limit on the number of Tier 2 shortage occupation, Resident Labour Market Test and intra-company transfer visas issued to between 29,400-32,600;
  • Exclusion of any Tier 2 visa issued for less than 12 months from the limits on the assumption that such short-term migrants cannot switch into other work related routes in country or if they are able to, their switching application counts towards the annual limit of an otherwise out of country cap;
  • A recalibration of the Tier 2 eligibility criteria in order to ensure that only skilled migrants can enter the UK under this tier;
  • Scaling down allowances used for points purposes in relation to intra-company transferees;
  • Applying more stringent extension criteria for any intra-company transferee wishing to extend their existing visa;
  • Strengthening the existing Resident Labour Market Test route through the introduction of a certification regime; and
  • Asking the MAC to reconsider the criteria used to identify skilled occupations under the shortage occupation route.

The Committee is a non-statutory, non-time-limited, non-departmental public body, sponsored by the UK Border Agency and the Home Office. Whilst the Government is not obliged to accept the recommendations published today, historically its recommendations have been implemented into UK immigration policy.

It is important to note, however, that the Government has also undertaken a separate public consultation on the proposed mechanisms of annual limits, and further detail on its response to that consultation is expected before the end of 2010.

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