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New migration cap to hit care sector

24 November 2010
Theresa May has unveiled details of the UKs first permanent cap on non-EU foreign nationals entering the UK, which will undoubtedly have a detrimental impact on the care sector.

The Home Secretary announced yesterday that the number of visas granted will be cut by a fifth from April 2011. Tier 1 visas will be capped at just 1,000 and will be limited to only those with exceptional talent, including entrepreneurs, investors, sports stars and scientists. Tier 2 visas will rise to 20,700 (an increase of 7,000) but this will be limited to those with offers of jobs at graduate level.

Whilst there are exemptions for multi-national companies transferring its employees to the UK, this will provide little, if no relief, for the majority in the care sector.

In the last year, 13 of care workers were recruited from outside the EU. The new cap, however, could result in migrants being refused entry to the UK or forced to quit their jobs, which will certainly disrupt the provision of care at a time when the ageing population is on the increase and national workers on the decrease.

To compound this, it is anticipated that this is only the first step in the governments pledge to reduce net migration and that student migration will be next on the target list. In her announcement, the Home Secretary stated that:

"Nearly half of all students coming here from abroad are actually coming to study a course below degree level and abuse is particularly common at these lower levels - a recent check of students studying at private institutions below degree level showed that a quarter could not be accounted for. Too many students, at these lower levels, have been coming here with a view to living and working, rather than studying. We need to stop this abuse."

It is not yet clear whether there will be any specific exemptions to this cap for the care sector. In the meantime, however, the interim cap imposed in July 2010 (resulting in a 5 reduction in visas), will continue to apply. There may be a glimmer of hope for those employers who will need to exceed their quota between now and April 2011, as it may be possible to apply for a limited increase, albeit only in exceptional circumstances.

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