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UK Visa: Tier 1 and 2 changes come into effect from 6 April 2011

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First annual limit on non-EU workers comes into force to reduce immigration into the UK

06 April 2011

The first major change to reduce immigration into the UK has been delivered today, as the government’s new annual limit comes into force.

This, along with radical changes recently introduced to the student route and plans to tackle permanent settlement, will see net migration fall back down to the tens of thousands.

Under the annual limit, employers will be able to bring only 20,700 people from outside the EU to work in skilled professions under Tier 2 (General) of the points-based system. A further 1,000 visas will be made available to people of ‘exceptional talent’, to ensure that Britain remains open to the brightest and the best.

The 1,000 exceptional talent visas will be given to those who experts believe will make the biggest contribution to science and the arts in the UK.

To ensure that only those with the skills we need can come to the UK to work, prospective workers will need to have a graduate-level job offer, speak an intermediate level of English and meet specific salary and employment requirements. Those earning a salary of £150,000 or more will not be subject to the limit.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said:

‘The annual limit will not only help reduce immigration down to sustainable levels but will protect those businesses and institutions that are vital to our economy.

‘The new system was designed in consultation with business. We have made clear that as the recovery continues, we need employers to look first to people who are out of work and who are already in this country.

‘We are overhauling all routes of entry to tackle abuses, make the system more effective and bring net migration back down to the tens of thousands.’

The Intra Company Transfer route (ICT), which is not part of the annual limit, will also be changed in 3 ways:

  • the job will have to be in an occupation on the graduate occupation list;
  • only those paid £40,000 or more will be able to stay for more than a year – they will be given permission to stay for 3 years, with the possibility of extending for a further 2 years; and
  • those paid between £24,000 and £40,000 will be allowed to come to the UK for no longer than 12 months, at which point they must leave the UK and will not be able to re-apply for 12 months.

Also, from today, Tier 1 of the points-based system will be restricted to all but entrepreneurs, investors and people of exceptional talent as the old Tier 1 (General) category has been completely abolished due to widespread evidence of abuse.

The ‘Exceptional Talent’ route will be open to current and prospective leaders in the fields of science, engineering and the arts and will allow us to continue to facilitate those who have the most to offer the UK.

Under the new visa rules for investors, those who invest large sums of money will see their right to settle permanently in the UK speed up. Those who invest £5 million will be allowed to settle here after 3 years, and those investing £10 million or more will be allowed to settle after 2 years. This compares with the minimum 5-year requirement that is currently in place. Entrepreneurs will also be able to settle in the UK more quickly, if they create 10 jobs or turn over £5 million in a 3-year period.

In addition to these changes, new rules for settlement and asylum will also come into effect today.

The changes to the settlement criteria include:

  • a clearer criminality requirement for all applicants;
  • a new income requirement, and reform of the English language requirement, for those on work routes.

Further details of the changes to settlement can be found in today’s settlement announcement.

Ask the minister

If you have any comments to raise or questions to ask about the new rules for workers, you can send them to Immigration Minister Damian Green by emailing or via twitter using @ukhomeoffice and the hashtag #askdamiangreen by 20 April.

We will post a film of Damian Green’s answers on our website and the Home Office Youtube channel after 20 April. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered, but the Minister will do his best to answer as many as he can. There is more information about the question and answer session on the Home Office website.

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