Immigration capped: Annual limit of 21,700 under skilled, highly skilled routes

New rules to take effect from April 2011

24th November 2010: The number of skilled migrant workers with job offers coming to Britain from outside the EU will be cut by a fifth. From next year, it will be capped at 21,700.


Home Secretary Theresa May has also asserted skilled workers without job offer will be limited to 1,000 people of exceptional talent.

Quoting the Home Secretary, the UK Border Agency said: `A raft of new measures will strictly control the numbers that can come to the UK and work from outside Europe.
`As well as limiting the number of skilled non-European workers that businesses can bring into the country, the Home Office is tightening the intra-company transfer route, which will sit outside the annual limit, and restricting Tier 1 of the points-based system – the ‘highly skilled’ tier – to all but entrepreneurs, investors and people of exceptional talent.

`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 that migrant labour is not used as a substitute for those already looking for work in the UK.

`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 Tier 2 (General) and 1,000 under the new ‘exceptional talent’ route; raising to £40,000 the minimum salary for those coming under the Tier 2 (Intra company ransfer) route for more than 12 months; restricting Tier 1 to all but entrepreneurs, investors and the exceptionally talented; and requiring occupations in Tier 2 (General) to be at graduate level.

`The government was determined to make changes to Tier 1 when it was revealed that approximately one-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 2’.

Home Secretary 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.’


The new rules will take effect from April 2011. Applicants under Tier 2 will still be required to apply for a visa from the UK Border Agency through the points-based system, 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 Tier 2 (Intra company transfer) route – but they must be earning more than £40,000 to stay more than 12 months, and their stay will be restricted to 5 years.

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