The government’s cap of 1,000 visas for Tier 1 (General) highly skilled migrant workers visa has the potential to make it very difficult for UK employers to hire top talent, according to John Hayes, a partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell.

Earlier this month, Damian Green, the Conservative immigration minister, announced a replacement for the Tier 1 (General) highly skilled migrant workers visa that was suspended late last year. The new visa tier will operate within the Points Based System of immigration control from 6 April.

This new Tier will make 1,000 visas available to migrant workers who wish to settle in the UK and who have ‘exceptional talent’ in one of the specified fields of science, art and humanities. Those who obtain such a visa will be granted leave to remain in the UK for three years and four months, with the option to apply to extend that time by two years. The government has said it will monitor the 1,000 visa limit as the year progresses.

Hayes says: “This cap of 1,000 visas could potentially make it very difficult for highly skilled migrant workers to obtain a visa to enter the UK to work. The limit is likely to be seen as an arbitrary number by employers and as a real barrier to recruiting the workers that employers want. Our clients already see the cap as a huge practical problem.

“We do know that all applicants for these new ‘exceptional talent’ visas will need to be endorsed by an ‘accredited competent body’ that will vouch for the applicant’s exceptional skill in their chosen field.

“The skills benchmark for applicants is likely to be very high. We also know that those who do receive these visas will be exempt, initially, from the Tier 1 English language and maintenance restrictions, which makes them all the more attractive.

“The government has made it clear that they are targeting a net decrease in immigration to the UK and so recruiters and employers should keep a keen eye out for further developments that may well affect their ability to bring non-EU workers into the UK to their organisations or as candidates for roles.