The coalition Government has the reduction of migration as one of its main aims and are proposing various changes to the current system. Most importantly, from April 2011 there will be a new annual cap of 21,700, to be reviewed annually.
A new Tier 1 group of ‘Exceptional Talent’ has been created, which will allow for 1,000 people such as scientists, academics and artists to enter the country. To compensate, the previous ‘General’ Tier 1 group (formally known as the ‘Highly Skilled Migrant Programme’) has been scrapped. The new group will encourage both those people who have received international recognition and those who show ‘exceptional promise’ and may receive recognition in the future. It is unclear how this will be decided, but it is likely, for example, that those working on important research projects will be included. In order to be admitted under this category, applicants should ensure that their application is endorsed by a significant figure in their field to give it the best possible weight. The other Tier 1 groups of ‘Entrepreneurs’ and ‘Investors’, whilst not limited in number, are also expected to be reformed.
The more general Tier 2 group will therefore be limited to 20,700 migrants for 2010/11. This will also be limited to graduate-level vacancies only. If you’re currently in the UK working in a below graduate-level position, you will be able to apply to extend your stay if you meet certain requirements. If you are applying to enter the UK under Tier 2, you must ensure that you have a good level of English competency and have no unspent criminal convictions.
However, the Tier 2 cap does not apply to:
- Migrants already in the UK and their dependents;
- Workers who are filling a vacancy with a salary of more than £150,000;
- Religious ministers; or
- Intra-company transfers (i.e. an employee who will be continuing to work for the same company in the UK). Other intra-company transfers falling within the ‘Established Staff’ category will be allowed to stay in the UK for up to five years if their salary exceeds £40,000 per year, or twelve months if between £24,000 and £40,000 per year.
In addition, there have recently been suggestions that the rules regarding student visas will be re-examined in order to encourage more higher-level (i.e. degree and above) students to enter the country. Possible changes include a tougher points-based test, stricter limits on working hours and an end to allowing students to remain in the UK to look for a job. As students currently make up two-thirds of migrants entering the UK, the Government is keen to enforce stricter rules, starting with a consultation which began on 7 December. This will run for eight weeks, during which the Government will gather views on different proposed changes. In order to have the best chance of being allowed to enter as a student, applicants should be studying at degree level or above and have a good level of competence in English.
For more information on these changes and the latest updates, please see the Home Office UK Border Agency website.
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