The government is to reinstate its temporary immigration cap today, despite a court ruling last Friday which declared the restriction illegal.
The High Court suggested that the government had “sidestepped” Parliamentary scrutiny by pushing through the interim cap for non-EU workers in July, after upholding a legal challenge by the care home sector.
But immigration minister Damien Green stated that the limit would be reintroduced today after the “technicalities” that had led the procedure being ruled unlawful had been revised. He will also tell Parliament that applications for tier one visas – for highly skilled migrants entering the UK without a specific job offer – will be closed, as the quota limit has now been reached.
Home Secretary Teresa May limited the number of tier one and tier two visas for non-EU nationals to 24,100 up until next April, to avoid a surge of applications ahead of 2011’s permanent immigration cap.
The move was challenged by the English Community Care Association and Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, amid concerns about the effect on staffing in the care home sector. One in eight workers in the care industry comes from outside the EU, rising to one in four in London.
Shadow home secretary Ed Balls criticised the cap as “reckless and chaotic” after Friday’s ruling effectively nullified the interim measure. He queried what would happen to those who had been rejected for visas under the “illegal cap”.
Green said the government would receive the written court ruling in January, after which it would consider whether to appeal the decision.
William Foster, a partner at immigration law firm Fragomen, said: “From a technical perspective, the effect of Friday’s decision is that the interim cap has never been lawful. The practical effect of this decision is that it creates considerable uncertainty.”
But Foster noted the legal challenge only succeeded on a procedural point, adding: “The effect of this decision on the permanent cap is likely to be minimal.”
Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to lower net immigration levels – the difference between the number of people entering the UK and those emigrating – from nearly 200,000 a year to “tens of thousands”.
The permanent immigration cap has been set to allow entry for 21,700 skilled nationals from outside the EU per year, but does not include most intra-company transfers. It has been criticised for having a minimal impact on overall net immigration figures, while causing recruitment issues and skills shortages for some business sectors.