The government is to announce a proposed cap on the number of migrant workers coming to Britain from outside the EU by an estimated 13 per cent next year.
Experts on the Migration Advisory Committee (Mac) have suggested the proposed immigration cap should be cut to between 37,400 and 43,700 next year – down between 13 per cent and 25 per cent compared with 2009.
But the government’s advisers warned that students and family visas will also have to be slashed if the government is to fulfil its pledge to bring net migration down from 196,000 to the tens of thousands by 2015.
The number of students coming to Britain from outside the EU will also need to be cut, perhaps by more than 87,000, as will the number of people travelling to the UK for working holidays and those who come to work as domestic servants or on creative and media visas.
Work-related migration accounts for just 20 per cent of the overall reduction needed for the Government to reach its target, meaning non-EU students must make up 60 per cent of the cut with the final 20 per cent coming from family visas and their dependants, Mac said.
Two-thirds of the non-EU migrants who enter the UK come on student visas, with more than half of these studying courses below degree level.
Immigration cap threatens Britain's scientific future
What must be realised is that one of the most important segments of "brightest and best" are the scientists and engineers of a very high calibre whom we welcome from abroad, writes Nobel Prize winner Professor Sir Martin Evans of Cardiff University.
These individuals typically do us a great service and should either be exempted from a cap on immigration or facilitated by a much more sensitive application of a points and priority system.
Careful studies (for instance "The Scientific Century: securing our future prosperity" a report by the Royal Society) have shown that research, and science and technology are powerful drivers for economic growth. Any limit on the immigration of non-EU scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians will damage economic growth while having little impact on net migration.
Home Secretary Theresa May said she would crack down on non-EU students coming to privately-funded colleges and to study courses that were below degree-level as she seeks to make eligibility criteria for visas more selective.
But in a key speech on immigration earlier this month she added that she will do nothing to prevent those coming to study degree-level courses.
Professor David Metcalf, Mac chairman, said skilled workers with job offers, who enter the UK on tier-two visas under the points-based system, should be prioritised over tier-one visas for highly skilled workers without a job offer.
And a new provision could be made for non-EU scientists under tier one of the visa system to address the concerns of universities who fear that the cap could make it harder for the UK to attract the world’s best researchers, he said.
How the number might add up
Intra-company transfers have been painted as a way of allowing multi-nationals to get their top flight people into the country. But take a look at this chart from last week's report by the Migration Advisory Committee (p. 96) and you see the salary spread of folk who have come in under intra-company transfers.
Putting my ruler up against the graph it looks like about 50 per cent of people currently coming in on this route earn under £40,000. So if a £40,000 salary floor is introduced, and given that 22,000 came in under this route in 2009, you can see how you have potentially brought down numbers by 11,000 by bringing in the floor.
Business doesn't want this group artificially capped but if the government thinks the salary threshold does the work for them you can see how it gives the government scope to bring in a cap (exclusive of intra-company transfers) of around 30,000. Add on the 11,000 intra company transfers the government thinks you will probably end up with under uncapped intra-company transfers and you get to a figure a bit above 40,000 net migration (under non-EU work permits) which is where we look like ending up in policy.
Read more: Immigration cap - how the numbers might add up