Migration Advisory Committee recommends reducing UK immigration by up to 25 percent

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On 18 November 2010, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), a body set up to advise the UK Government on UK immigration including the UK's points based system, recommended that the UK Government reduce immigration by up to one-quarter.

The MAC said that Tier 1 visa and Tier 2 visa immigration numbers should fall to between 37,400 and 43,700. In 2009, some 50,000 work related Tier 1 and Tier 2 immigrant visas were granted.

Both Tier 1 visas and Tier 2 visas would see an annual drop in visas of between approximately 3,150 and 6,300 if the Government follows the MAC recommendations. Moreover, it was recommended that Tier 2 visas for skilled workers with job offers from UK employers should receive priority over Tier 1 visas.

Skilled immigration would account for 20 percent of the recommended reduction with the rest of the cuts taking place in family and student based immigration.

The MAC also advised that the Government should raise the threshold for earnings and qualifications. They even suggested that migrants may need to be stripped of their right to settle in the UK in future if immigration numbers are to be reduced.

However, according to the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, the proposed cap may affect fewer than 1 in 100 migrants entering the UK.

Businesses were not happy with the recommendations, stating that reducing immigration would hurt Britain's economy. The recommended cut in immigration would result in fewer visas than the current interim immigration limit already in place. A permanent immigration cap is due to start in April of 2011.

The British Chambers of Commerce told Reuters that any cap would need to be flexible to allow global talent to flow into Britain. Universities UK, Britain's education body, said the plans would make it more difficult to bring in top students from outside the European Union.

The Government has yet to make a decision on the final numbers for the cap. They have said that steps would be taken to make sure that the cap would not damage the British economy. A statement released by the UK Border Agency said that Tier 2 visa intra-company transfers would remain exempt from any immigration cap.

"Britain will remain open for business, and we have already announced that managers and specialists will continue to be able to come to the UK through an exempted intra-company transfer route," Immigration Minister Damian Green said.

Green is seemingly trying to placate UK businesses by allowing in more skilled workers than expected. However, the situation remains uncertain. It seems likely that entry of skilled workers on tier 1 and tier 2 visas will become more difficult in future. Now may be a good time to consider your immigration options for entry to the UK.