The detail of the 2011 UK immigration cap, and what it means for employers

by Laurie Anstis on November 24, 2010

After yesterday morning’s mistaken reports, we now have the detail of the UK government’s 2011 immigration cap.

The headlines

  • The total limit on permissions under Tier 1 and Tier 2 of the points-based system for the year from April 2011 will be 21,700.
  • The limit breaks down to 1,000 “exceptionally talented” people under Tier 1 route and 20,700 under the Tier 2 (general) route.
  • Tier 2 (general) permission will only be granted for jobs at graduate level or above.
  • Tier 2 (intra company transfers) applications will be outside the cap, but individuals must earn £40,000 or more to be able to stay in the UK for more than 12 months under the intra company transfer route.

The detail, and what it means for employers

– Tier 1

The old Tier 1 (general) route is to be abolished.

Tier 1 (investor) and Tier 1 (entrepreneur) are to be reformed and will not be subject to the cap. The government will encourage applications under these routes.

There will be a new Tier 1 (exceptional talent) route limited to 1,000 place for:

“people of exceptional talent—the scientists, academics and artists who have achieved international recognition, or are likely to do so”

Applications under this scheme will require endorsement by “a competent body in the relevant field”.

These limitations effectively mean that Tier 1 will be outside the reach of even highly qualified and talented individuals, and is likely to rule out Tier 1 as a means of getting individual workers into the UK, except in highly unusual circumstances. Most employers can rule this out as a possible way of getting workers into the UK from April 2011.

– Tier 2 (general)

The Tier 2 (general) route will be subject to the cap of 20,700 permissions per year, but this will not apply to in-country applications, nor to applications by ministers of religion or sportspersons, who will be outside the cap. The cap will also not apply to people who earn more than £150,000 a year.

Tier 2 (general) permission will be limited to graduate level jobs (to be set by the MAC). Existing Tier 2 (general) staff will be able to extend their stay under existing rules even if their job is not graduate level.

The cap will work on a monthly basis. If the allocation of certificates of sponsorship for a month is exceeded (which is highly likely) permission will be granted in the following order of priority:

  • shortage occupations
  • whether the post requires higher academic qualifications
  • salary

These changes are going to make it all the more important for employers to apply as early as they can for any certificate of sponsorship. The route can be expected to be oversubscribed, and employers will need to get in applications early. In marginal cases it is unlikely to be worth applying, and employers may have to accept that they cannot bring in an overseas worker. The restrictions in Tier 2 are likely to put a focus on other less-used routes, such as the Tier 5 (temporary worker) route.

– Tier 2 (intra company transfer)

Intra company transfers will be outside the cap. The “graduate trainee” and “skills transfer” routes will remain as before. Established staff paid over £40,000 will be able to stay for up to five years. Those paid between £24,000 and £40,000 will be able to stay for up to one year.

Employers will generally welcome the retention of the intra company transfer route.

– Other issues

As part of the statement of changes, the government also announced plans to review Tier 4 (the tier applicable to students) with a view to substantially limiting the number of non-EU students who come to the UK for courses below degree level.

The full Parliamentary statement from Theresa May is here, and the UK Border Agency official guidance is here.


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