The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has recommended that the UK’s annual limit on skilled workers from outside of the European Economic Area should remain unchanged for the next financial year.

Following its first review of the limit, which was introduced in 2011 and applies to non-EEA migrants applying to work in the UK under Tier 2 of the immigration system, the MAC recommends it remain at its current level of 21,700.

Current estimates suggest that the number of Tier 2 visas issued in the 12 months to April 2012 could be as low as 10,000.

The MAC was also asked to look at the number of intra company transfers. It has not recommended any changes to the policy, but advises that it should be kept under review and the use of intra company transfers for third party contracting should be monitored closely.
‘Although the current Tier 2 limit is undersubscribed the MAC recognises that cutting it may affect the perception of the UK as an attractive place to do business,’ said MAC chairman Professor David Metcalf.

‘The Tier 2 system is set up to prevent displacement of UK workers but intra company transfers are not part of that limit and account for the lion's share of those visas. The use of this route for third party contracting needs to be kept under review and we have recommended three methods to cut the numbers if necessary,’ he explained.
In addition the MAC was asked to look at the effect of raising the required skill level for Tier 2 migrants from National Qualification Framework Level 4 to National Qualification Framework Level 6.

It found that raising this level would cut the number of occupations that qualify for Tier 2 visas from 121 to 89 which would exclude occupations such as office managers, IT technicians and health and safety officers. It is estimated that this change would reduce inflows through Tier 2 by 7%.

Finally, the MAC looked at whether some high paid jobs should be exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT). It recommends that highly paid and PhD level jobs should be exempt from the RLMT requirement to advertise in Jobcentre Plus.