The introduction of an annual limit on the number of people allowed to come to the UK to work from outside the EU is a first for this country. It is just one of the ways in which the Government aims to ensure immigration is lowered to more sustainable levels, while at the same time protecting the businesses and institutions which are vital to our economy.
We of course still want to continue to attract the brightest and the best people to the UK, but unlimited migration places unacceptable pressure on public services, school places, and housing, all of which can cause problems for local communities.
The changes we are making will affect everyone coming here to work from outside the EU, so it is important professionals working in human resources know how to ensure their organisations stick to the new rules.
From April 2011 the number of skilled workers, such as doctors, nurses and other professionals allowed to come to the UK will be limited to 20,700 in 2011-12. People filling these roles will also need to be sponsored by an employer and doing work skilled at degree level. If there are too many applications in any given month, applications will be prioritised according to the scarcity of their skills in the UK and salary.
Entrepreneurs, investors and the exceptionally talented will still be able to enter the UK without a job offer as long as they fulfil certain criteria, which will be announced by the Government in due course. Entrepreneurs and investors will not be subject to a limit, but no more than 1,000 in the brand new exceptionally talented category will be given visas in 2011-12.
Where someone works for an overseas branch of an organisation and their company sponsors them to come and work in their UK based office (an intra-company transfer or ICT), that person must be earning a minimum salary of £40,000 if they want to stay in the country for more than 12 months. Their stay will be restricted to a maximum of five years. If they are earning at least £24,000, they will be able to enter for a maximum of 12 months. We will also set a time period within which ICT workers will not be able to re-enter the UK after their initial 12 months working here.
The annual limit is also being combined with cross-Government action to improve the skills of UK workers and help them into skilled jobs. By applying a limit, we will no longer admit migrant workers to do jobs that could be done by resident workers. Employers will need to do more to recruit and train resident workers to do jobs that would otherwise be done by migrant workers.
The changes we are making are part of a package of changes we are bringing about across all immigration routes, to stamp out abuse of the system and ensure we are attracting the brightest and the best to the UK. The independent Migration Advisory Committee will review the limit annually.
We have worked closely with businesses while designing this system and listened to their feedback. We are also clear that as the recovery continues, we need employers to look first to people who are out of work and already in this country.
Damian Green MP is Minister for Immigration.