The government has announced a new cap on the number of migrant workers who can come to the UK from outside the EU.
Skilled workers from non-EU states will be reduced in number from 28,000 to 21,700 a year.
The cap, however, will not include some 22,500 workers who move to the UK under the intra-company transfer system. Such workers will be able to stay in the UK for more than a year, and up to five years, provided their earnings are £40,000 annually, up from the previous ceiling of £24,000.
Businesses will also be able to bring non-EU staff into the UK for less than a year so long as they earn more than £24,000 annually.
The new cap means that 95 per cent of migrant workers will enter the UK only with a job offer through the Tier 2 immigration system. Just a thousand visas will be issued to highly skilled workers, such as doctors and engineers, arriving under the Tier 1 system without employment.
Business groups broadly welcomed the announcement.
John Cridland, the CBI’s director general designate, said: “This announcement shows that the Government has listened to the needs of business and has acted to support the recovery. This is a good result for the economy and for the country as a whole, and sends out the message that Britain really is open for business.
“Crucially, the design of the new system prioritises the routes of entry that matter most to the economy. The new system rightly gives priority to people with a job offer over those without one, so companies will still be able to access talent from around the world.
“Exempting most ‘Intra-Company Transfers’ from the cap will also allow firms with international operations to manage their global workforce effectively. This will make sure that the UK remains an attractive place to base new projects and investment, which means more jobs for UK workers.
“Over the coming weeks, we will learn more about how the cap will work in practice, for instance whether it will be operated on a monthly or an annual basis. We would prefer to see a monthly system, which would avoid the long ‘closed’ periods that have affected companies in the US.”
David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, added: “Business will be pleased to see that the government has taken its concerns on board. At the same time, businesses will hold the Home Secretary to her pledge to ensure that businesses will still have the flexibility to hire according to their needs.”