Green: "We are overhauling all routes of entry to tackle abuses"
Cap on non-EU workers allowed into the UK is now in force. Employers will only be able to bring 20,700 people from outside the EU to work in skilled professions under Tier Two of the system.
A further 1,000 visas will be made available to people of 'exceptional talent' to ensure that Britain remains open to the brightest and the best, Home Office said.
The 1,000 exceptional talent visas will be given to those whom experts believe will make the biggest contribution to science and the arts in the UK.
Prospective workers will need to have a graduate level job, speak an intermediate level of English and meet specific salary and employment requirements. Those earning a salary of £150,000 or more will not be subject to the limit.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said: "The annual limit will not only help reduce immigration down to sustainable levels but will protect those businesses and institutions that are vital to our economy. The new system was designed in consultation with business.”
Mr. Green said they have made it clear that as the recovery continues, employers should look first to people who are out of work and who are already in the UK.
"We are overhauling all routes of entry to tackle abuses, make the system more effective and bring net migration back down to the tens of thousands," Mr. Green said.
The Intra Company Transfer route (ICT), which is not part of the annual limit, will also be changed in three ways: the job will have to be in an occupation on the graduate occupation list; only those paid £40,000 or more will be able to stay for more than a year. They will be granted for three years with the possibility of extending for a further two; and those paid between £24,000 and £40,000 will be allowed to come to the UK for no longer than 12 months, at which point they must leave and will not be able to re-apply for 12 months.
Tier One of the Points Based System will from now on be restricted to all but entrepreneurs, investors and people of exceptional talent. The old (general) category has been completely abolished due to widespread evidence of abuse, Home Office said.
The 'Exceptional Talent' route will be open to current and prospective leaders in the fields of science, engineering and the arts and will facilitate entry of those who have the most to offer the UK.
Under the new visa rules for investors, those who invest large sums of money will see their right to settle permanently in the UK speed up. Those who invest £5million will be allowed to settle here after three years and those that invest £10million or more will be allowed to settle after two. This compares with the minimum five year requirement that is currently in place. Entrepreneurs will also be able to settle in the UK more quickly if they create ten jobs or turn over £5million in a three year period.
Mr. Green added: "We are sending out a clear message - the UK remains open for business and we want those who have the most to offer to come and settle here. Entrepreneurs and investors can play a major part in our economic recovery and I want to do everything I can to ensure that Britain remains an attractive destination for them.
"Last year we issued far too few visas to those who wish to set up a business or invest in the UK - I intend to change that."