News story

Limit for non-European workers set out

A raft of new measures will strictly control the numbers coming to the UK to work from outside Europe, the Home Secretary announced today.

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

As well as limiting the number of skilled non-EU workers businesses can bring into the country, the Home Office is tightening the intra-company transfer route which will sit outside the annual limit.

It is also restricting tier one of the points-based system (PBS) to all but entrepreneurs, investors and people of exceptional talent.

Read the press notice.

New measures

To control those coming here, the government has committed to:

  • Introducing an annual limit of 21,700 for those coming into the UK under the skilled and highly skilled routes - 20,700 under the skilled route and 1,000 under the new ‘exceptional talent’ route
  • raising to £40,000 the minimum salary for those coming through the intra-company transfer route for more than 12 months
  • restricting the highly skilled tier of the PBS to all but entrepreneurs, investors and the exceptionally talented
  • requiring occupations in Tier 2 to be at graduate level.

The introduction of an annual limit was a coalition government pledge and will allow Britain to remain competitive in the international jobs market, while ensuring migrant labour is not used as a substitute for those already looking for work in the UK.

The government was determined to make changes to tier one - the ‘highly skilled’ tier -  when it was revealed that approximately a third of those coming through this route were actually doing low skilled jobs once they were in the UK.

Businesses have made it clear that their priority is to fill their specific vacancies through tier two.

Rational approach

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.’

April 2011

The new rules will take affect from April 2011. Applicants under tier two will still be required to apply for a visa through the PBS; will have to be of graduate level; be sponsored by an employer and will be awarded points based on scarcity of skills and salary.

However, they will be competing against other applicants for a visa to enter the UK, and in months when the limit is oversubscribed those with the most points will qualify for one of the certificates of sponsorship available each month.

Separately, businesses can bring in their own employees through the intra-company transfer route but they must earn more than £40,000 to stay more than 12 months, and their stay will be restricted to five years.

Consultation launch

A consultation will be launched before the end of the year focusing on tier four of the PBS - the student route - which currently accounts for two thirds of migrants entering the UK each year. 

Published 23 November 2010