UK: Government Releases Details of Permanent Cap System
The UK Home Secretary announced today official details of the permanent annual cap system, as well as stricter eligibility requirements for Tiers 1 and 2. Tier 1 (General) and Tier 2 (General) together will be capped at 21,700 annually, a twenty percent drop from current levels. Tier 1 will receive an extensive overhaul, with Tier 1 (General) capped at only 1,000 annually, a significant drop from last year’s 7,200. Tier 2 intracompany transferees will not be covered by the cap but will be subject to tightened eligibility rules.
The UK Home Secretary Theresa May today released official plans for the permanent cap on the annual admission of foreign workers that will take effect on April 1, 2011. The permanent cap system will mark a historic turning point in UK immigration law, with significant cuts in the number of foreign workers who will permitted to enter each year. The Home Secretary also announced tightened eligibility rules that will take effect on April 1, 2011, as well.
Annual Cap Figures
Tier 1 (General) and Tier 2 (General) of the Points Based System together will be capped at 21,700 annually, representing a 20% total drop from last year, and far below the 37,400 to 43,700 range recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee (‘MAC’) last week. Notably, intracompany transferees under Tier 2 will not be subject to the cap, despite the MAC recommendation to the contrary.
In a dramatic shift, the Tier 1 (General) category as it currently operates will be closed and the Tier 1 category will be limited to investors, entrepreneurs, and people of “exceptional talent.” It is expected that the individuals of exceptional talent will be capped at 1,000, while investors and entrepreneurs will not be capped. The UK admitted 7,200 individuals under Tier 1 (General) last year, and the 1,000 cap represents a significant reduction that is partly a response to a preference in the business community for Tier 2 and government statistics that revealed one-third of the individuals entering the UK under Tier 1 (General) were working in low-skilled jobs once in the UK.
Tier 2 (General) will be covered by the remaining 20,700 cap numbers.
Tightened Eligibility Requirements
Tier 2 (General) will be restricted to jobs that require degree-level educational qualifications and will require higher minimum point levels. Though Tier 2 (Intracompany Transfers) will not be subject to the cap, the minimum annual salary threshold to qualify for a Tier 2 (ICT) visa for a stay of over 12 months will increase to £40,000 to ensure that only senior managers are qualifying for the category. In additional, Tier 2 (ICT) stays will be restricted to five years. The MAC will be asked to review these figures next year.
In addition to having to meet higher minimum point levels to qualify for Tier 2 (General), applicants will compete against one another for visas as well. In months where more Tier 2 (General) applications are submitted than there are available cap figures, applications will be ranked by their point total, with those with the most points receiving one of the visas available for that month.
Other Changes Across the UK Immigration System
To further achieve the current UK government’s goal of reducing the overall immigration level, changes will be made across the UK immigration system, as “the tightening of the economic routes [are] just one part of a package of measures.”
Tier 4, which covers foreign students, will also be the subject of a full-scale reform to ensure the program focuses on the areas of greatest value to the UK and to target abuse. Specifically, the UK government will consult with the public on whether to (1) restrict access to Tier 4 to only those at degree level or above, with only Highly Skilled Sponsors able to offer courses below degree-level; and/or (2) close the Tier 1 Post Study Work Category which currently acts as a bridge for students entering into employment.
The Home Secretary also reiterated that the UK government intends to restrict access to permanent residency for those who enter on a temporary basis, which will also be the topic of upcoming public consultations.
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