Following the formation of the UK's first coalition government for 65 years, we consider the implications for immigration law in the context of Conservative and Liberal Democrat policy.

The Conservatives in their manifesto set out a number of proposed measures, including:

  • an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants allowed into the UK;
  • restricting access to the UK to those who will bring the most value to the British economy; and
  • applying transitional controls for all new future EU Member States.

Aside from the much-debated amnesty for illegal immigrants, the Liberal Democrats proposed the introduction of a regional points-based system to restrict migrants to working where they are needed. This would have involved obligations on employers to undertake more rigorous checks.

As with many areas of policy, a compromise has been reached and this is reflected in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition document, which states that there should be an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants admitted to the UK to live and work. The actual limit and the mechanism for its implementation will be jointly considered by the coalition parties.

There is, however, likely to be resistance to the idea of capping the number of skilled workers entering the UK. This currently amounts to approximately only one fifth of all annual UK immigration – most of whom will play an important role in contributing to the UK economy during the difficult period that lies ahead. The introduction of a cap could also lead to increased uncertainty for migrants applying to enter or extend their stay in the UK.

While we still await details of how the new government intends to implement these plans, it is likely that skilled migrants looking to enter the UK over the coming years will face increased difficulties.