UKBA Announces Annual Limit for Non-European Workers

The Home Secretary has announced a number
of changes to the immigration system

On 23 November the UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced several new measures that will assist in strictly controlling the number of non-European workers that can come to the United Kingdom.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, said: "Today's announcement has set out a clear, rational approach to which workers we will allow into the UK job market. We have set out an approach which will not only get immigration down to sustainable levels but at the same time protects those businesses and institutions which are vital to our economy.

"We will take action on all routes into the UK, and these changes are crucial if we are to limit the numbers coming here to work while still attracting the brightest and the best to the UK.

"We have worked closely with businesses while designing this system, and listened to their feedback, but we have also made clear that, as the recovery continues, we need employers to look first to people who are out of work and who are already in this country.'

New Rules Taking Effect from April 2011

Tier 1 Changes
  • The Tier 1 (General) route will be closed and a Tier 1 route for ‘persons of exceptional talent’ will be introduced. This will cover 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 be endorsed by a competent body in the relevant field. The 'exceptional talent' category will be subject to an annual limit of 1,000 places. Tier 2 will continue to be open to migrants working in these fields.
  • The Tier 1 (Investor) route will be reformed to offer an accelerated route to settlement, depending on the level of investment.
  • The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route will be reformed to make it more attractive. The UK Border Agency (UKBA) will introduce flexible criteria and a new avenue for promising start-up companies which do not meet the investment threshold.
  • The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Investor) routes will not be subject to a limit on numbers.

More information will be published by the UKBA as soon as possible.

Tier 2 Changes
  •  The Tier 2 (General) route will be subject to an annual limit of 20,700 places for the 2011/12 migration year. This limit will not apply to:
    o In-country applications from those already in the UK;
    o Dependants of Tier 2 migrants;
    Tier 2 (General) applicants who are filling a vacancy with a salary of more than £150,000;
    Tier 2 (Sportsperson) applicants;
    Tier 2 (Minister of religion) applicants; and
    Tier 2 (Intra company transfer) applicants.
  • Tier 2 (Intra company transfer) applicants in the Established staff sub-category will be able to stay in the UK for up to five years if they are paid more than £40,000 per year. Those paid between £24,000 and £40,000 will be able to enter for up to 12 months within a specified period. The current rules will continue to apply to Tier 2 (Intra company transfer) migrants in the Graduate trainee and Skills transfer sub-categories.
  • Tier 2 (General) applications will be restricted to graduate-level vacancies. Following consultation with the Migration Advisory Committee, the UKBA will amend the shortage occupation list 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:
    o Shortage occupations in the first instance;
    o Whether the post requires higher academic qualifications; AND
    o Salary.

Potential Tier 2 workers who are granted a certificate of sponsorship will have three months in which to apply for a UK Visa.

Settlement Applications

The UKBA also announced that there will be a new threshold regarding criminal convictions, requiring all those applying for settlement to be clear of unspent convictions.

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. If an applicant fails to pass the minimum English language requirement, their application for settlement will be refused.

- Marek Starke is a member of the UK Visa Bureau.