On 19 July temporary immigration caps were imposed on Tier 1 (General) applications made outside the UK and Tier 2 (General). Permanent caps are due to be introduced on Tier 1 (General) and Tier 2 from April 2011. In order to inform policy regarding the mode of implementation for the permanent caps, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has a consultation regarding the permanent caps open until 17 September. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has been tasked with making recommendations to the Government regarding the numerical limits of the caps for the first 12 months and is running a separate consultation for this purpose until 7 September.

What are the proposals?

The consultations do not seek feedback regarding whether to implement caps, only how and at what level.

For Tier 1, the Government is considering the following:

  • A 'first come first served' model for Tier 1 (General) whereby the sub-tier would close for new applications once the numerical limit is reached
  • A 'pool' approach for Tier 1 (General) whereby intending applicants make an initial application (including paying a fee) to enter a pool of candidates for a period of 6 months, from which the Government would invite the highest scoring candidates on a periodic basis to apply for entry to the UK (the Government has expressed a preference for this approach in comparison to the 'first come first served' option)
  • Raising the minimum points criteria and/or considering additional points scoring criteria for Tier 1 (General)
  • Whether to exempt Tier 1 (Investors) and Tier 1 (Entrepreneurs) from the cap
  • Mechanisms through which to attract investors and entrepreneurs

For Tier 2, the following options are being explored:

  • A 'first come first served' model whereby visas are released on a quarterly basis and the existing Tier 2 points criteria (or a modified version thereof) are applied to those who are successful in securing a place within the visa quota (this is the Government's preferred option)
  • A 'pool' approach whereby visas are released on a quarterly basis, with unselected applications being carried over for up to 6 months
  • Quarterly visa auctions whereby employers bid for an allocation of certificates of sponsorship, with the highest bidders securing the available quota
  • Whether to roll over unselected applications from one quarter to the next

The UKBA consultation also asks for views relating to dependants and employer sponsors, including:

  • Whether or not to include dependants in the cap limits
  • Whether to extend sponsor responsibilities to demonstrate a commitment to upskilling British workers and/or to hold health insurance for sponsored migrant workers
  • What measures sponsors intend to take to train and source labour from the domestic market where a ready supply of migrant workers is no longer available

The MAC consultation is focusing on the size of the caps, taking into account such factors as the effects highly skilled and skilled migration have on the economy, provision and use of public services and wider society.

The Government has also asked the Migration Advisory Committee to undertake a separate consultation and to advise regarding what level the permanent caps should be set at for the first 12 months of operation, taking into account economic, public service and social impacts, as well as impacts on wider society.

Why should your business respond?

Since the interim limit on Tier 2 (General) was imposed on 19 July, the UK Border Agency has received over 600 requests to issue additional certificates of sponsorship on exceptional grounds. The criteria used by the UK Border Agency to determine these requests do not include the business case of the sponsor (except where the application is made by a new sponsor) – a strict ranking of requests is followed according to whether the request is for an extension, whether a shortage occupation is involved and whether the sponsor is a new or existing sponsor.

None of the proposed methods for implementing caps will take into account the business cases of employers for requiring highly skilled or skilled non-EEA workers, so if businesses believe that the caps should take this factor into account, this should be stated in consultation responses.

The MAC has also asked for evidence to be submitted to it regarding what businesses believe will be the likely impacts on them, their sector and local area of reducing the number of migrants through Tier 1 (General) and Tier 2 during 2011/2012. This evidence will be used to inform the MAC's recommendations on the capping levels for the period, so input from businesses on this point in particular will be valuable.

Further information regarding responding the consultations and how to respond can be found by at the links below:



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