Earlier this week the Government announced a number of new measures to reduce migration from outside Europe. Overall they are likely to make it more difficult for employers to recruit the talent they need in an increasingly competitive global environment. They will take effect on 1 April 2011 and are designed to go some way to achieving the Government's stated aim of reducing net migration to tens of thousands each year.

The changes include introducing an annual limit of 1,000 for Tier 1 visas (compared with more than 14,000 Tier 1 visas issued in 2009). Tier 1 will be restricted to entrepreneurs, investors and what the Government has described as the "exceptionally talented". An annual limit has also been introduced for Tier 2 visas, but in what appears to be a limited victory for the business lobby, intra-company transfers will be excluded from the cap. However the eligibility criteria for this route will be tightened, with a salary of more than £40,000 and a minimum stay of 12 months now required.

The new criteria for Tier 1 and Tier 2 (Intra-company transfer) are likely to result in an increased number of individuals attempting to obtain a reduced number of Tier 2 (General) visas. Tier 2 limits will be imposed on a monthly basis and applicants will be competing for visas. In months where the limit is oversubscribed, those with the most points will qualify for one of the available certificates of sponsorship. The changes will replace the temporary restrictions that have been introduced over the past few months.