The first annual limit for non-EEA workers announced today

23rd November 2010

The Home Secretary has announced today a series of measures which will strictly control the numbers of non-EEA nationals that can come to the UK, concluding speculation on how the permanent annual limits, in respect of both Tiers 1 and 2, will be implemented in April 2011.

Permanent Annual Cap for 2011/2012

The Government has announced that the first ‘annual limit’ for individuals seeking entry clearance to the UK will be set at 21,700. This accounts for 20,700 under the skilled route and 1000 under a new ‘exceptional talent’ route.

In light of the recent report by the UK Border Agency in respect of the numbers of Tier 1 migrants undertaking low skilled occupations since coming to the UK (reported by Magrath Update on 28 October 2011), the Government has been determined to make changes to Tier 1 – the highly skilled tier – and has today done so by restricting the highly skilled tier to only entrepreneurs, investors and a new ‘exceptionally talented’ category.

Other measures

To further control those coming to the UK, the government has committed to:

  • Introducing a minimum salary level of £40,000 for individuals transferring to the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) route for more than 12 months; and
  • Requiring all occupations in Tier 2 to be at least at graduate level.

Implementation date set at April 2011

These new rules will be implemented from April 2011. Those Tier 1 (General) applicants making an application before the date of implementation will be considered under the existing rules in respect of eligibility under the Tier 1 (General) scheme. However, as reported previously, applicants will have to bear in mind that between now and April 2011, there are only 600 Tier 1 (General) available visas worldwide, and the interim limit has been reached twice already, first in October 2010 and again in November 2010. Given the announcements made by the Home Secretary today, it seems very likely that the limit will be reached each month between now and April 2011, as applicants proceed with visa applications before the rules change.

Tier 4 Consultation Approaching

The Home Secretary has also indicated today that a formal consultation will be launched before the end of 2010, focusing on Tier 4 of the Points Based System – the student route – which currently accounts for two thirds of migrants entering the UK each year. The consultation, which will run for eight weeks, will seek views on a range of measures to reduce the number of students that can come into the UK including:

  • for adult students, focussing Tier 4 on higher level courses and those offered by Highly Trusted Sponsors
  • introducing tougher entry criteria such as English language competence
  • ensuring students wishing to extend their studies show evidence of academic progression
  • limiting students’ entitlements to work and sponsor dependants
  • improving the accreditation process for education providers, alongside more rigorous inspections.

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