Britain opens its doors to high earners

Vidya Ram London | Updated on February 16, 2011 Published on February 16, 2011

Indians and other non-EU citizens entering the UK on a salary of more than £150,000 a year will be exempt from the Government's annual immigration cap, according to plans announced on Wednesday. Below that salary level, the number of work permit visas sponsored by companies — known as Tier 2 visas — capped at 20,700, divided into 12 monthly allocations.

A new “exceptional talent” route will also be opened up, with a limit of 1,000 visas a year.

“Britain needs to attract the brightest and the best to fill job gaps but this should never be at the expense of workers already here,” said the Immigration Minister, Mr Damian Green. The coalition government has pledged to reduce annual net migration from the “hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands.”

The announcement comes after months of discussions with business leaders who have voiced their concern about the potential impact of an immigration cap on the economy and their ability to employ workers with the necessary skill set here in the UK.

Business concerns

“It's refreshing to see that the Government is listening to business concerns. Many of London's biggest global employers will be delighted with the restrictions on high earners being lifted,” said Baroness Jo Valentine, chief executive of advocacy group London First.

“As the economy recovers, it will be vital that there are sufficient numbers in Tier 2 for the UK to remain attractive as a place to invest,” said Mr Neil Carberry, head of employment policy at the CBI.

However, the British Chamber of Commerce warned that the new regulations would have to be monitored to ensure that they didn't hamper the work of businesses. “If problems do surface, the government must remain flexible, and make changes once again,” said the BCC's Director of Policy, Mr Adam Marshall.

Flexible system

The new system will be more flexible than the old one under which businesses were given an annual allocation. Instead, companies will have to apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) from the Border Agency each time they wish to bring a non-EU employee into the UK.

In April, the first month for the new regulations, around 4,200 COS will be issued, and 1,500 a month subsequently, with unused ones rolled over each month.

A points-based system, favouring people such as scientific researchers, and those on a high salary will be used to grant COS in months where the allocation is oversubscribed.

Preference will also be given to those on the UK Border Agency's “shortage occupation list” of jobs such as physicists, biochemists, managers in mining and energy, engineers and doctors. All applicants will have to have a graduate level job and speak an intermediate level of English.

The government has also clarified regulations covering inter-company transfers, which will be exempt from the immigration cap, though workers who come in on that route will have restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK.

Those on salaries over £40,000 a year will be able to stay for three years, with the possibility of extending it for a further two, while those on salaries between £24,000 and £40,000 will only be able to come for up to a year. All workers using this route will have to be on a graduate occupation list.

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Published on February 16, 2011
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