GOOD news on UK migration: non-EU workers earning 150k will now be excluded from the cap

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After Wednesday's article about the new disastrous immigration policy, we now have some more favourable news on the subject. And there may even be additional favourable news to come.

"New detail on how the policy is being implemented is being dripped out every day," says Matthew Davies, a partner at law firm Fox Williams. "We still do not have the complete picture."

The good news is as follows:

1) Anyone earning more than 150k will not be included in the immigration cap

Anyone hired into the UK from outside the EU on more than 150k a year, won't be included in the 2011/2012 cap of 20,700 for Tier 2 visas. "This will clearly be good news for the City," says Davies.

What is not clear, however, is whether this 150k applies to total compensation or purely to salaries. If, as seem likely, it applies to salaries alone, expect some salary inflation as a result (also good news if you're not the bank doing the hiring).

2) The total allocation of visas for new hires is down by less than we thought, but it's still DOWN

Tier One General Visas have definitely been abolished. This is bad news: Tier One General Visas were associated with individuals, not jobs, meaning that the Visa holder could move into whichever job he/she liked and the employer didn't have to apply for a new Visa.

In 2009, around 13,900 people came into the UK under a Tier One General Visa according to the Migration Advisory Committee. Also 2009, around 14,250 people came into the UK under a Tier 2 Visa (not including those who transferred within their company).

In future, everyone hired into a UK company from outside the EU will have to come in under a Tier 2 Visa. Contrary to what we said initially, the number of Tier 2 Visas has been INCREASED by 6,500 to take account of this. However, they haven't been increased enough. The loss of the Tier 1 General Visa means there will still be a shortfall of 7,400 Visas in total (although this can be evaded by hiring people on more than 150k - see point 1).

3) Moving from one employer to another will take some of the new employer's Tier 2 Visa Allocation, but won't necessarily be included in the cap

Earlier this week, there were fears that the Visa restrictions would make it difficult for non-EU bankers to change jobs. Lawyers says this won't necessarily be the case as movement between banks in the UK probably won't be included in the cap.

However, a bank in London which hires a Russian salesman who's been in the UK for a two years working at a rival, will still need to use part of its Tier 2 Visa quota - and apply for additional visas if necessary. This could be a hassle and will encourage banks to look for people who don't need Visas.

4) There will be more job adverts

In order to hire non-EU people on Tier 2 Visas, UK employers will need to prove that they couldn't find an EU national suited to the role. Nick Hobson, an employment lawyer at Speechly Bircham, points out that in order to do this, they will first need to pass the resident labour market test. This means advertising a job for four weeks.

"You could see a lot more job adverts than previously," he muses.

5) The Tier 1 Post Study Visa hasn't definitely been abolished

Right now, non-EU students who finish their course in the UK can stay here for up to two years post graduation. Earlier in the week, lawyers thought this had been abolished. Davies says this isn't necessarily the case: "The government have said very little about the Tier 1 Post Study Visa. It may be subsumed into something else."

CONCLUSION

The conclusion is that no one really knows how the migration policy will shape up. Lawyers say the 20,700 cap is likely to stay, but further exemptions for high earners could be introduced. The Tier One Post Study Visa may yet emerge under a different guise.

However, to hedge against the adverse effects of the new system, Hobson suggests any non-EU bankers currently working in the UK under a Tier 2 Visa and who may wish to change jobs in the future should consider applying for a Tier 1 General Visa now while they still exist.

According to Hobson, existing Tier 1 Visa holders are likely to be able to stay in the UK from April. They may also find it possible to move into new jobs without requiring a new employer to use up part of their Tier 2 certificate allocation (or go through the process of applying for

one).

Anyone holding a Tier 1 Visa could therefore be more employable. If you're a non-EU worker in the City you have approximately 3.5 months to sort one out.

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