Tuesday, November 23, 2010

British immigration cap deal ‘strikes right balance’

Not so much a cap as a colander, by the sound of it. But legal immigrants are not the problem so it probably does not matter much either way

A compromise deal on the government’s flagship immigration cap policy will be signed off by the cabinet on Tuesday, after Vince Cable agreed that it struck the right balance between addressing the worries of the public and safeguarding the interests of business.

The business secretary’s fears about the economic impact of the cap have been eased by David Cameron’s promise to exempt many “intra-company transfers”, which allow multinationals to bring staff in from overseas offices.

Theresa May, home secretary, was still working on the final announcement on Monday night, which will be unveiled to parliament on Tuesday. But people involved in the talks said they expected companies would be free to transfer staff from overseas if they earn more than £40,000 a year.

It is expected that those earning less than £24,000 a year will be banned from the transfer route, as the government seeks to stem the flow of Indian IT workers entering the country by this means. Those earning £24,000-£40,000 may only be allowed into the UK for a year. The issue of company transfers had emerged as one of the most contentious parts of the policy to restrict the number of work permits given each year to people from outside of the European Union. The Japanese embassy said its companies would have cut investment and withdrawn from the UK if they were stopped from transferring staff.

Ms May is thought to have accepted many of the recommendations made last week by the independent Migration Advisory Committee on how to implement the cap, including lifting required earnings and educational standards across most categories.

David Metcalf, head of the committee, recommended that the limit on skilled and highly skilled non-EU workers be set at 43,700 next year, down from 50,000 in 2009. However, people involved in the talks said the final figure would be different because the committee’s calculation did not take into account Mr Cameron’s exemption for transfers and other factors.

Ms May will also announce a consultation period ahead of implementing deep cuts to the number of foreign visas issued to non-EU students each year. The Home Office says the route is abused by people looking to come to Britain to work. But ministers such as Mr Cable and David Willetts, university minister, want to make sure the restrictions do not damage legitimate universities or hinder bright students.


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