If you’re a professional relocating to London and going to apply for a UK visa, the results are in!

Yesterday, the UK Home Secretary announced the revisions to UK migration policies for non-EU citizens that will impact Tier 1 and Tier 2 visa holders.

A Tier 1 visa (highly skilled) was always the fall-back for anyone at or above a certain level of education and work experience, which, for a higher fee, would grant them residence in the UK without having a job lined up in advance. The obvious perqs of this are expediting your relocation without it being contingent on finding work first, and having the added benefit of job-searching and interviewing locally. Renewal of this visa, however, has been contingent on ultimately finding a job within the year. It has thus far only been a matter of meeting the criteria of a points-based system based on your experience and skills to date, but going forward from April 2011, this visa category will be limited to only entrepreneurs, investors, and the “exceptionally talented” (e.g., academics, scientists, and artists).

The number of Tier 1 visas allocated to the “exceptionally talented” will be restricted to only 1,000, which is apparently a 13,000 drop from last year. The reason why this visa route has been targeted so strictly is due, naturally, to people taking advantage of it. A Home Office poll found that about 30% of Tier 1 visa holders were moving to the UK under their “highly skilled” status only work in low-skilled jobs.

A Tier 2 visa (skilled/general) is the most common for professionals relocating to the UK, and will now be set at 20,700, evidently a 7,000 increase on last year and excluding the intra-company transfer route. Tier 2 migrants must have corporate sponsorship and hold a graduate-level occupation. Tier 2 employees that do make an intra-company transfer do not fall within this cap, but must earn a salary of at least £40,000 if they’re staying at least a year.

The decision seems to have stirred some controversy, as it effectively rids of the Tier 1 route, and some fear a negative impact on the nation’s prosperity and competitive edge if such highly skilled professionals are denied entry. The overall rationale, however, is in the interest of ensuring those permitted to work here are contributing to the economy that they’re also drawing from. The outcome remains to be seen…

Still pending a two-month consultation, then, is the verdict on Tier 4, so stay tuned if you’re moving to London to study. People immigrating to the UK on a student visa comprise about two-thirds of visas granted, so this will be a key area of focus to ensure this route is likewise not abused.

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