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Cap on Non-EU Migrant Workers

30th June 2010
During the run up to the general election the Conservative Party announced that it intended to introduce a cap on migrant workers. Under European Union law the UK government cannot limit the number of workers coming to the UK from within the EU. However, the new Government has announced that it intends to consult on introducing a limit on the number of non-EU migrant workers coming into the UK.

In order to avoid an excess of applications before the limit is actually set (and it is not clear what the limit will be), the Government has introduced an interim limit, and is trying to ensure that the number of work visas remains below the 2009 levels.
The interim limit will take effect on the 19th July 2010. The measures that will then apply will amend the current points-based immigration system. The effect of this will be that the number of highly skilled  migrants (Tier One) will be capped at current levels, and the number of points required by a non-EU worker who comes to the UK to do a highly skilled job will rise from 95 to 100 (presumably using the same scoring system as already in place).

A further point for employers to note is that the number of certificates of sponsorship that licensed employers can issue to those who wish to come to fill skilled job vacancies will also be limited. The Government estimates that this will reduce the number of people entering the UK through Tier Two by 1,300.

The consultation period will be 12 weeks, enabling business to consider how a limit on migrant workers can be introduced. In addition, the Government is to ask the Migration Advisory Committee (the Government's independent adviser on migration issues) for its opinion on where the total limit under these proposals should be set, considering the social and economic impact. The Government isn aiming to put in place permanent limits on non-EU migrant workers by 1st April 2011.

This move is seen as part of the Governments aim of reducing the annual immigration figures from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands. However, it is unclear just how far this will affect UK business, particularly as the restrictions cannot extend to workers from EU states, and no final number for the cap has been set. In a time of recession, more than any other time, employers will be looking out for the best skilled and qualified workers for their businesses, and there has been long-standing criticism over the lack of proper trained UK nationals in many business sectors. It will therefore be interesting to see how this measure actually affects businesses and their ability to remain skilled and competitive. It also remains to be seen how this will affect an already notoriously complicated system. 
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