Interim cap on non-EU migrant workers coming to UK

A passport being checked The plan aims to prevent a last-minute rush of applications

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A temporary limit on the number of migrant workers from outside the EU allowed into the UK is to be introduced ahead of a planned permanent cap.

Home Secretary Theresa May will limit the number of workers to 24,100 - down around 5% - between now and April 2011.

The Conservatives' election pledge to curb immigration survived the coalition agreement with the Liberal Democrats.

Labour said that the introduction of an arbitary immigration cap "is fraught with difficulty".

The temporary cap is aimed at preventing a rush of applications before a permanent cap is set next April.

Start Quote

It's very important that we allow businesses a free choice to bring in overseas nationals”

End Quote Julia Onslow-Cole Price Waterhouse Coopers,

Ms May will announce the move on Monday, as she launches a consultation process for deciding the level of the permanent cap.

According to the BBC's Mark Easton, the latest official immigration figures available are for 2008 and suggest 258,000 EU and returning British citizens - about 48% - came to the UK out of a total of 538,000 immigrants.

Julia Onslow-Cole, of PricewaterhouseCoopers, told the BBC that every overseas national brought by firms into the UK cost them three times as much as hiring a resident worker.

"They are not spending this money for nothing, they really need that expertise.

"Particularly in these economic times, I think it's very important that we allow businesses a free choice to bring in overseas nationals," she said.

The Bangladesh Caterers' Association - which represents 12,000 Asian restaurants across the UK - says a cap on immigration will have a serious effect on their ability to recruit skilled chefs from outside the EU to work in the UK.

A spokeswoman for the sector said it contributed £30bn to the UK economy and the planned temporary limit would hinder economic recovery and growth.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), which represents the UK's £27bn private recruitment industry, also said it was concerned the cap would lead to greater skills shortages and would affect the delivery of social care in some areas.

'Tough but fair'

A spokesman for the Confederation of British Industry said the organisation would wait until an announcement by the home secretary on Monday before making any comment.

A spokesman for the Labour Party said they would wait until Monday to make a full response, but added: "It seems that senior Tories are also doubtful about the proposals.

"The tough Australian-style points system introduced by Labour has already had a big impact on bringing down migrant numbers and closed the door to unskilled workers from outside the EU.

Start Quote

Do we really want to have restrictions on foreign students at a time when the higher education sector is facing funding cuts and is going to rely on the fees that those students bring in?”

End Quote Tim Finch Institute of Public Policy Research

"We remain committed to an approach that will help our economy and which is tough but fair."

During the election campaign David Cameron said he wanted to reduce net annual migration - the number of immigrants minus the number emigrating from the UK - from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands. The figure currently stands at 163,000.

The Liberal Democrats opposed a cap during the election campaign in May but signed up to the Tory idea as part of the coalition deal.

However they won agreement to end the detention of children in immigration centres.

Alp Mehmet, of MigrationWatchUK, said the introduction of a temporary limit was "a welcome sign that the government is starting as it means to continue".

He said: "We need carefully to consider how net immigration will be brought down to tens of thousands - we believe about 40,000 is a realistic target - rather than the hundreds of thousands of the last 10 years, and is therefore good news for all our people, including immigrants and future immigrants.

"Immigration at the levels of the past decade is in no-one's interest."

Language skills

Tory MP Peter Bottomley, a member of the cross-party campaign group, Balanced Migration, said the cap was needed.

"Clearly you need to have people you need. If for example, you have Canadian graduates with teaching diplomas, those are the sorts of people we need.

"For many others, we actually have 8% unemployment. It's not the employment thing that matters most to most people, the biggest thing is the effect on environment and on planning."

Tim Finch from the Institute of Public Policy Research, said the measures were just a stopgap and would have a detrimental affect on the higher education sector.

He added: "Do we really want to have restrictions on foreign students at a time when the higher education sector is facing funding cuts and is going to rely on the fees that those students bring in?"

The new government has also axed the national identity card scheme. It was brought in by Labour to tackle fraud, illegal immigration and identity theft but was often criticised for being too expensive and an infringement of civil liberties.

Ministers are also bringing forward to the autumn measures requiring many immigrants marrying UK citizens to prove they have a command of English.

The plans, which Labour had planned to introduce in July 2011, will apply to partners coming to the UK from areas outside the EU, such as South Asia.

Your comments:

I am a migrant from outside the EU. I have paid taxes and, through university fees, have subsidised British students to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds. I have never claimed and will never claim any benefits, and I have even tried to minimise my use of the NHS because of the stereotype of immigrants as scroungers. I love this country and wish to stay here not to exploit it but to contribute to it. If necessary I would fight to defend it. Why am I being scapegoated?

Mark, London

This is so ridiculous. I run two nursing homes, with around 10-12 carers from non-EU, who are on their psw visas. I have employed local people, and found it hard to get them stay for more than a year in employment in the care setting. What is the govt planning isn't sensible at all, we have so many forthcoming cuts, including social care and I cant imagine going out of staff during year and in future. This is simply not the right time, not at all. I did not vote for such a coalition mug.

Joshua Samuel, London

I have been in the U.K on a tier one visa for three years. The recent move to limit non-EU immigrants make me question whether I will be welcome in this community long term. This is despite the fact that I have a master's degree and extensive experience in an Allied health profession. At times, I have been the only applicant for senior posts. My profession is, however, not on a 'shortage occupation list'. I assume this is because, at junior ranks, there is an adequate supply of staff. I have fully integrated into the community, have no criminal or traffic offence record and am eligible for no government assistance of any sort. I am the immigrant who will have to leave because of these changes despite wanting to stay and contribute. Fortunately for me in the long term, other countries have a more insightful and less 'knee-jerk political response' to immigration and I have many other options.

J Dawson, Cambridge

I am an immigrant from outside the EU and was recruited straight from university like a lot of foreign students at the time. The truth is that there is a very severe skill shortage and all you need is to visit UK universities to see the number of foreign students studying for higher degrees in engineering, the sciences etc ( for example there was no home UK student in my MSc course). The UK PLC cannot afford to alienate migrants. A cap will just stifle employers from recruiting the best people, which at this time are mainly from outside the EU!

Juliet Abbah, Manchester

I'm a highly skilled migrant from outside of EU myself and I know why I was hired by my company. I speak four foreign languages to support a big emerging market and no British colleague of mine could substitute me due to a very limited knowledge or the lack of any foreign language other than English. However, I would support the cap as it is way too easy to abuse the system, which many people do unfortunately. I think that the focus should be on changing the school curriculum and raising the level of general higher education in the country to avoid hiring people from overseas in the future and secure labour headcounts for locals. For now, I see lots of advantages for myself in the UK over the majority of people who are either poorly educated or de-motivated to invest in their self-development.

Dinara, London

I'm a Canadian currently living in Scotland on an Ancestry Visa, which is due to expire in 2014. I find these limits blatantly xenophobic, useless and nothing more than knee-jerk reaction to quell the Conservative-voting masses. Do people not realise that universities across the country depend on foreign students, who, indeed, pay excessive international student fees? I am disgusted that Nick Clegg, who argued so passionately against this policy, has signed up for this.

Jennifer, Glasgow

I work for a pharmaceutical company as a migrant worker. We always have a staff crisis because the job needs skilled workers. Every time we advertise, almost all the applicants are migrants from Asia. It would be impossible to run the business without them. We have the same problem in all our branches.

Deen, Hertfordshire

Immigration must be capped. In the case of the Bangladesh Caters Association it's blatant discrimination to keep bringing in people from overseas when they could train and employ chefs from this country. There are enough people unemployed. This country needs to invest in its own people to get them off benefits. We need apprenticeships and decent training. Why are we looking overseas unless the need is desperate?

Dave Harrison, Oldham

These measures are long overdue and much needed to stop the influx of unwanted migrants who are a drain on our economy. A sensible and controlled approach to immigration is the only way to ensure that Britain continues to benefit from the undoubted contribution of non-EU migrants without being seen as a soft touch for those who are coming to take advantage of our already over-stretched social care system. With millions unemployed, we need to divert these resources to helping British people get back into work. Net migration must come down as current levels are unsustainable.

Aziz, Manchester

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