Press release

Government outlines visa reforms for workers

New details of the government's radical changes to the work visa route were unveiled by the Home Office today.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

This shake up is part of the government’s new annual limit on non-EU workers, which will take effect on 6 April.

At the end of last year the Home Office announced that 20,700 visas will be made available to skilled workers applying through Tier 2 of the Points Based System, as well as 1,000 visas under a new exceptional talent route.

Certificate of sponsorship

Under the new system, employers will have to apply for a certificate of sponsorship (COS) from the UK Border Agency for a specific post if they wish to bring someone to the UK - this is a change from the current system which gives businesses an annual allocation.

The government has also announced that employers filling a vacancy that attracts a salary of £150,000 or more will not be subject to the limit on the number of COS that may be allocated.

Brightest and best

Immigration minister Damian Green said: ‘Britain needs to attract the brightest and the best to fill jobs gaps but this should never be at the expense of workers already here.

‘We have worked closely with businesses while designing this system, and made it clear employers should look first to people who are out of work and who are already in this country.

‘And those that do come here to work must know that we intend to make the route to settlement tougher. It can not be right that people coming to fill temporary skills gaps have open access to permanent settlement.’

The annual limit of 20,700 COS will be divided into 12 monthly allocations. Due to the likely demand in the first month, 4,200 COS will be made available in April.

After that the limit will be set at 1,500 places per month. Any places that are unused each month will be rolled over to the following month.

In the event that the monthly allocation is over subscribed, COS applications will be ranked using a points system designed to favour jobs on the shortage occupation list, scientific researchers and those with a higher salary. Once a COS has then been granted to an employer it must be assigned to the prospective employee within three months.

Workers from outside the EU who want to come to Britain will need to have a graduate level job, speak an intermediate level of English, and meet specific salary and employment requirements.

Intra company transfers

The intra company transfer route, which is not part of the annual limit, will also be changed in three ways:

  • the job will have to be in an occupation on the graduate occupation list
  • only those paid £40,000 or more will be able to stay for more than a year.  They will be granted for three years with the possibility of extending for a further two
  • those paid between £24,000 and £40,000 will be allowed to come to the UK for no longer than 12 months, at which point they must leave and will not be able to re-apply for 12 months

Mr Green added: ‘Britain will benefit from migration provided it is controlled and directed towards improving our economy.

‘I am not seeking zero or negative net migration. Our aim is to reduce the level of migration down to the levels of the 1990s - tens of thousands each year, not hundreds of thousands.’

Imran Khan at the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said: ‘I’m delighted that the government, and the UK Border Agency in particular, have listened to our concerns. They’ve responded with a package that rewards people who want to come and invest their intellectual capital in this country. I think we can see this as an important victory for the science and engineering sector.’

Notes to editors

1.  These changes will be made by way of amending the ‘Immigration Rules’ before 6 April.

2.  A copy of the statement of intent can be found on the UK Border Agency website.

Published 15 February 2011