In 2007 there was a significant annual decrease in the number of people immigrating into the United Kingdom. According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics, last year saw some 577,000 new arrivals, a reduction of 8.9 percent over the previous years total.
Home Office figures give a more detailed picture and indicate a total of 210,800 worker registrations in 2007 or 7.4 percent less than in 2006. Significantly, Eastern European Immigration into the UK has dropped for the fourth consecutive quarter to an annual 38,000, a drop of 36 percent year on year.
Record numbers of migrant workers from Eastern Europe arrived in the UK in 2004 following EU expansion. However with numbers now declining, there may be more opportunities for non-EU migrants to live and work in Britain.
On 27 November 2008, the UK will implement Tier 2 of its "five-tier" points based system. This tier allows employers to sponsor workers from outside the EU if skilled job vacancies cannot be filled after advertising them for 2 weeks within the EU. Jobs included on the shortage occupation list can automatically be offered to non-EU citizens.
Tier 2 will replace the current UK Work Permit scheme.
Tier 1, which covers highly skilled immigration is already in operation. It is very similar to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) which it replaced. People applying under this scheme can come to the UK without having first received a job offer if they can score a qualifying level of points based on various criteria such as age, qualifications, previous earnings and English language ability.