UK government announces new cap on number of migrants to the UK

18 January 2012 |

The government has announced that from April 2011 new measures are
being introduced to limit the number of non-EEA migrants who may come to
the UK.

Overview of UK immigration system

During 2008/9 the UK immigration system was changed to a points
based system and split into 5 tiers.  (Each tier has been divided into
sub-tiers).  These are as follows:

Tier 1 – Highly skilled migrants

Tier 2 – Skilled migrants workers

Tier 3 – Low skilled workers

Tier 4 – Students

Tier 5 – Temporary or exchange workers

With the exception of tier 1, migrants require to be sponsored by an
employer prior to coming to the UK.  Sponsoring employers are subject
to a number of reporting and record keeping formalities. The employer
issues the migrant it wishes to sponsor with a Certificate of
Sponsorship (“CoS”) and the migrant must then obtain entry clearance
before arrival in the UK.

The new measures

The new measures include the following:

Tier 1 – Highly skilled migrants

  • The Tier 1 (General) route is to be closed.
  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) is be reformed.  This route will not be subject to a cap.
  • Tier 1 (Investor) is be reformed to offer an accelerated route to settlement.  This route will not be subject to a cap either.
  • A new category, Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) will be created for
    migrants who have won international recognition in the scientific and
    cultural fields or who may achieve such recognition in the future.  This
    category is capped at 1,000 migrants.

Tier 2 – Skilled migrant workers

  • A maximum of 20,700 non-EEA workers who are coming to the UK under
    Tier 2 of the points based system will be permitted to enter the UK in
    the year 2011/2012.  Any migrant worker who will earn in excess of
    £150,000 per annum will be excluded from this cap.
  • All migrant workers must be at graduate level.
  • A pool CoS will be distributed to businesses monthly.  This is a
    change from the current system as under the interim cap the CoS were
    pre-allocated.  However, this means that applicants will have to compete
    against other applicants for their UK visas and in months when the
    limit is over subscribed, which is likely to be every month, the
    applicants with the greatest amount of points will qualify.
  • The Tier 2 intra-company transfer (“ICT”) migrants will be excluded
    from the cap, however, the criteria for qualifying for the ICT route is
    being tightened.  Any ICT migrant coming to the UK for more than 12
    months must earn a minimum of £40,000 per annum and their stay in the UK
    is restricted to a maximum of 5 years.
  • The tier 2 (General) cap will be subject to an annual review.

Tier 3 – Low skilled workers

This tier has not been launched and there are currently no plans to launch it at present.

Tier 4 – Students

This is the tier used by overseas students to study in the UK.
Under the new tier system the UK educational institutions have to assume
a greater compliance responsibility for their overseas students.

It has been announced that a consultation on Tier 4 will begin before the end of the year.

Tier 5 – Temporary or exchange workers

This tier will not primarily be used by employers but will instead
be used by bodies who deal with temporary work.  For example, it may be
used by charity workers who come to the UK to undertake voluntary work
for up to 12 months.  It is comprised of the Temporary Workers and Youth
Mobility Scheme sub-tiers.


The abolition of Tier 1 (General) is unsatisfactory.  This route was
used by employers who did not want to have to advertise vacancies under
Tier 2 and/or were not licensed as sponsors.  Much comment from
industry sources has appeared in the UK press expressing fears of an
impending skills shortage as a result of these measures.

These amendments would appear to make our immigration system less
responsive to employers’ needs just as the need to retain talent in the
UK to assist the recovery from the recession becomes key for many.

For further information or to discuss the issues raised, please get in touch.


Content is for general information purposes only. The information provided is not intended to be comprehensive and it does not constitute or contain legal or other advice. If you require assistance in relation to any issue please seek specific advice relevant to your particular circumstances. In particular, no responsibility shall be accepted by the authors or by Abbiss Cadres LLP for any losses occasioned by reliance on any content appearing on or accessible from this article. For further legal information click here.

The author


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