03 August 2010

Interim caps on Immigration under Tiers 1 and 2 of the points-based system

With effect from 19 July 2010, the Government has changed the rules for applicants under tiers 1 and 2 of the points-based immigration system with the aim of reducing the number of migrants entering under these routes by five per cent in the period to 31 March 2011. Part of these changes includes introducing interim caps and the government’s stated aim is to introduce a permanent cap from 1 April 2011.

The detail of the scheme works as follows:

1- Tier 1

  • The government has increased the requirements to qualify under Tier 1 general (formerly the highly-skilled migrant programme) from 95 points to 100 points (including a requirement for 10 points for English language and 10 points for maintenance).

  • The government has introduced a cap on the number of applications from outside the UK that can be approved each month. This will be administered on a monthly basis with a cut-off announced on the UKBA website each month. Any remaining applications will be rolled over into the next month.

Action point

  • Employers who want to register an employee who is currently outside of the UK under Tier 1 should make the application as soon as possible because the monthly quotas operate on a first-come, first-served basis and the monthly cut-off is likely to lead to a significant backlog. There is also no way of knowing at this stage what form of restriction will be in place from 1 April 2011 and you will want to ensure your employee’s application has been processed by this date.  

2 – Tier 2

  • The government has also introduced a restriction on the number of certificates of sponsorship which may be issued by Tier 2 sponsors during the period of the temporary cap.

  • If you are already a Tier 2 sponsor you should receive a detailed letter from the UKBA setting out what your allocation of certificates of sponsorship is for the period 19 July 2010 to 31 March 2011.

  • Sponsors may find that their certificate of sponsorship allocation is set to zero and this will certainly be the case for any B-rated sponsors. Allocation is based on last year’s utilisation of certificates of sponsorship meaning that employers who have not used many certificates recently may find their allocation particularly restricted. It is possible to apply for additional certificates of sponsorship from a pool. However, these will only be granted exceptionally.

  • New sponsors can still register during the period of the temporary cap. Any new sponsors will have to request specifically the number of certificates of sponsorship that they require (as all new sponsors will be initially allocated zero certificates of sponsorship).

 Action points

  • All existing Tier 2 sponsors (and anyone thinking of registering as a new sponsor) should review their requirements for staff falling under this category during the period of the temporary cap with a view to requesting additional certificates of sponsorship if needed. Employers need particularly to bear in mind any employees who will require an extension of their certificate of sponsorship during the period of the temporary cap.

  • Employers may also want to transfer qualifying staff into Tier 1 to free up certificates of sponsorship for new staff.

3 – Consultations

The government is operating two consultations to seek views on:

  • how a limit on immigration should work; and

  • the levels at which the immigration limit should be set in its first full year.

The first consultation will run until 17 September 2010 and is being conducted by the UK Border Agency itself. The second consultation will run until 7 September 2010 and is being conducted by the Migration Advisory Committee.

Links to both consultations are provided below and we would suggest that all employers with an interest in how the permanent cap should work and at what level it should be set should respond to the government’s consultation before the deadline.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further queries.

Click here to link to UKBA consultation.

Click here to link to MAC consultation.

Click here link to UKBA guidance on Tier 1. 

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