As predicted, the government unveiled a new set of rules for people applying for UK work permits on Monday.
Effective 19 July 2010, the number of highly skilled migrants applying under tier 1 of the points based system will be capped "at current levels" and the number of points needed by non-EU workers who come to do highly skilled jobs will rise from 95 to 100. Moreover, the number of certificates of sponsorship that licensed employers can issue to those who wish to come to fill skilled job vacancies under tier 2 will fall by 1,300.
Skilled workers who come to the UK via intra-company transfers, however - who comprise 45% of the total number of non-EU migrant workers that come to the UK - will be exempt from the new cap. Other exemptions will include ministers of religion and elite sports people.
The government will conduct a 12-week consultation with business on how to implement a "permanent limit" on the number of migrants from outside Europe coming to work in the United Kingdom. In addition, it has instructed the Migration Advisory Committee, an independent advisory body, to report on the level at which the limit should be set, given its potential social and economic impact.
After the consultation ends, permanent limits on non-EU immigration will then be decided and put in place by 1 April 2011.
Shadow home secretary Alan Johnson has called the cap a "con trick" and is quoted in the Guardian as saying:
"You wonder what is the point of this, given that in this country at the moment, under our policy, if a company wants to bring a skilled worker in, they can do it if they have advertised that job for four weeks in Job Centre Plus and they are absolutely sure they can't get a British worker to do it.
"So it's absolutely pointless. At best it's a gesture. At worst it's a deceit."