The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has released its report making recommendations on achieving the Government’s aim to reduce net migration through changes to Tiers 1 and 2 of the Points Based System.

MAC’s recommendations include:

For Tier 1 General  

  • A reduction in the number of visas to be issued in 2011/12 by between 3,150 and 6300 (compared to visas issued in 2009);  
  • An overall limit on the number of visas to be issued in 2011/12 of between 8,000 and 11,100;  
  • Periodically amending the points table for Tier 1 General to ensure that only the most highly skilled will qualify; and  
  • Extensions to be subject to a requirement that the migrant is employed in a skilled graduate occupation.  

For Tier 2 (including the Shortage Occupation, Resident Labour Market Test and Intra-Company transfer routes):  

  • A reduction in the number of visas to be issued in 2011/12 by between 3,150 and 6300 (compared to visas issued in 2009);  
  • An overall limit on the number of visas to be issued in 2011/12 of between 29,400 and 32,600. This limit excludes dependant visas or those applying to switch immigration status or extend their leave within the UK;  
  • Visas of less than 12 months duration to be excluded from the limit where the migrant cannot switch into other routes;  
  • Amending the points calibration for Tier 2 to ensure that only skilled migrants qualify;  
  • A reduction in the allowances that can be used to score points for future earnings for intracompany transfers;  
  • Intra-company transfer extension applications to have more stringent criteria than initial applications; and  
  • Strengthening the resident labour market test through a certification regime (i.e. another body would confirm that the sponsor has met the resident labour market test).

MAC’s report does not, unfortunately, take into account the Government’s recent announcement that Tier 2 intra-company transfer visas should be excluded from the limit so it remains to be seen if this category will be spared.

If MAC’s recommendations are implemented (and, historically, this has been the case), employers reliant on recruiting skilled workers from outside the EEA will face a ‘scrabble’ to fill gaps in their workforce before limits are reached.

Full details of how the permanent limit on migration from April 2011 will operate are due to be published by the UKBA before the end of the year and we will keep you posted.