Immigration cap – further changes announced

Theresa May has given her statement to Parliament. In it she confirmed her commitment to reduce immigration to tens of thousands by 2015 and the following, which are to take effect from April 2011.

1. Tier 1 and 2 entries to go down from 28,000 to 21,700.

2. Tier 1 numbers to fall from over 13,000 to 1,000

3. Tier 1 to be changed so that it will only be available to people of “exceptional talent”, like scientists, academics and artists.

4. No limit on the number of entrepreneurs and investors allowed in.

5. Tier 2 limit to go up 20,7000. Llimited to people with graduate-level jobs. Intra-company transfers will be exempt from this limit.

6. For workers staying for more than 12 months exemption will only cover workers earning more than £40,000.

7. May to consult on restricting student visas only to those studying at degree level, “some flexibility” for people studying at below degree level, if they have “highly trusted sponsors”. Consultation to be launched before the end of the year

8. May to consult on closing the post study route.

9. Link between temporary and permanent migration will be ended. May to ask MAC to look further at this with a view to announcing further changes next year.

Will the cap work?

The cap and accompanying plans aren’t largely about economics. The findings of the Migration Advisory Committee about the impacts of tiers 1 and 2 migration on the UK economy are testimony of this. So too are the various pieces of research that increasingly show that the UK needs significant immigration both in the short and long-term. The cap’s rationale is therefore primarily political in nature. It seeks to assuage anxieties and concerns about our immigration system but will it work?

Law as communication

Cast your mind back to the rationale for the Points Based System and it should be evident that the introduction of that scheme was driven by politics – the need for a simplified system that could more easily communicate to the public precisely who was coming to the UK and why with a view to assuring the public that immigration was ‘in control’ was as policy papers show at the fore of the minds of policy makers. The system was to be accompanied by more rigorous enforcement mechanisms not only to better regulate what were admittedly more extensive numbers of immigrants coming to the UK, but to perform its legal megaphone functions through communicating the above messages.

What happened?

The Points Based System and its accompanying architecture hardly engendered the kind of acceptance hoped for. Mori polls for example reveal that the vast majority of people view immigration nationally as a problem, and that there is overwhelming support for tougher immigration policies. If anything, there is anecdotally a good case for suggesting the public landscape has become altogether less hospitable for migrants.

Some on the right claim that the significant expansion in immigration itself particularly from Eastern Europe is to blame. Others lump the blame on negative political discourse – if only the Government could have spoken in positive positive terms about immigration everything would have been dandy.

It is of course true that globalisation and rising immigration transform communities and challenge identities. It is also true that politicians failed to sell or even really menaingfully attempt to sell immigration to the electorate as a whole, or indeed to ever explain coherently precisely what its system for regulating migration was.

The reality however is that immigration is a touchstone issue for other anxieties – overburdened public services (with housing emerging as a particular issue), job insecurity, lowering financial returns for work are key amongst these.

Gearty in his excellent lecture for Asylum Aid explains the implications of this

“… over the past twenty years we have seen the dismantling of the security offered by social democracy – no guarantee of work; a lowering of financial returns for those in work and a sharp reduction in the protection afforded those without employment, or in bad health; a resiling from the commitment to equal access to educational excellence; and the result of all this – a vast and increasing gulf between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have‐nots’ …

A community that so devalues its own people is not likely long to retain its good manners so far as visitors are concerned, and so it has proved. The economic and social precariousness of the great majority of citizens produces an unease which manifests itself in anger at the fact that visitors still seem to enjoy vestiges of the old deal. If we have to suffer then they should be made to as well: there should be fewer of them; their life here should be worse than ours; we should have priority over them so far as ‘our’ services are concerned’.

Why the cap is destined to fail

At a time when immigration is set to continue at noticeable levels and we are about to embark upon an unprecedented slashing of public expenditure that will result in hundreds of thousands of job losses, far fewer affordable homes, more homelessness, and a lowering in real terms what those who are incapable of working can expect to live on, can we honestly expect the reduction of some a few thousand visas to generate the acceptance the Government hopes for?

Update on 14.12.10. There was a further press statement issued by the UK Border Agency on this which was updated on 9 December. This appears in full below and includes changes in relation to settlement.

Annual limit for Tier 1 and Tier 2 visa applications

24 November 2010

The Home Secretary announced on 23 November 2010 a number of changes to immigration policy in respect of Tiers 1 and 2 of the points-based system, designed to deliver the government’s commitment to place a limit on non-EU economic migration to the UK.

Further details of these changes will be published before they are implemented in April 2011.

The changes announced yesterday are set out below.

Tier 1

The Tier 1 (General) route will be closed.

The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route will be reformed to make it more attractive. We will introduce flexibilities and create a new avenue for promising start-up companies which do not meet our investment threshold.

The Tier 1 (Investor) route will also be reformed to offer an accelerated route to settlement, depending on the level of investment.

The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Investor) routes will not be subject to a limit on numbers.

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 a limit of 1,000 places. Tier 2 will continue to be open to migrants working in these fields.

Further details will be published as soon as possible.

Tier 2

The Tier 2 (General) route will be subject to a limit of 20,700 places for 2011/12.

This limit will not apply to:

  • in-country applications from those already in the UK;
  • 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 5 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. The Migration Advisory Committee will advise us on what are to be considered graduate-level jobs, and we 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:

  1. shortage occupations in the first instance;
  2. whether the post requires higher academic qualifications; and
  3. salary.

Potential workers who are granted a certificate of sponsorship will have 3 months in which to apply for a visa.


From April 2011:

  • There will be a new criminality threshold, requiring all applicants applying for settlement to be clear of unspent convictions.
  • Skilled and highly skilled migrants will need to meet the salary criteria that applied when they last extended their permission to stay.
  • Skilled and highly skilled migrants will be required to pass the ‘Life in the UK’ test prior to gaining settlement.

For those entering in Tier 1 or Tier 2 of the points-based system after April 2011:

  • We will stop our current policy of granting further leave to remain to those who fail the Knowlege of Life requirement.
  • We will cap Tier 2 (intra company transfer) route at five years.

Revised on 9 December 2010

About jcwi

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants is a key campaigning voice in the field of immigration, asylum and nationality law and policy. It is completely independent from government funding, remaining entirely free from government influence. View all posts by jcwi

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