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The UK Government has introduced new measures aimed at controlling the numbers of workers that can come to the UK from outside Europe. For those of you who haven't yet got your heads around what this all means, read on!

The new rules impose limits on the number of skilled and highly-skilled non-European workers that businesses can bring into the country as well as tightening rules relating to inter-company transfers.

The UK operates a points-based immigration system under two tiers. Tier 1 and Tier 2 offer different routes for entry into the UK. Highly-skilled workers, entrepreneurs, investors and post-study workers fall under tier 1, whereas skilled workers fall under tier 2.

There will be an annual limit of 21,700 for those coming into the UK under both routes – 20,700 under Tier 2 and 1,000 under tier 1, which is being further restricted to entrepreneurs, investors and people of exceptional talent.

Highly skilled workers (actually now called "general (migrant)") do not have to have a job already lined up to qualify, whereas "skilled" workers must, under Tier 2, have a job offer and must also fulfil the points requirements.

There are four tier 2 categories: general, sportsperson, minister of religion and intra-company transfer. The new limit applies to the general category and limits entry to those in graduate-level occupations. The last category is for employees of multi-national companies who are being transferred by their overseas employer to a UK branch of the organisation, either on a long-term basis or for frequent short visits. The only restriction being imposed in this category is raising to £40,000 the minimum salary for those coming in under this route.

There are three categories of intra-company transfer:

Established staff – this route is for established, skilled employees to be transferred to the UK branch of their organisation to fill a post that cannot be filled by a settled worker

Graduate trainee – this route allows the transfer of recent graduate recruits to a UK branch of the organisation, for training purposes

Skills transfer – this route allows the transfer of new recruits to a UK branch of the organisation to acquire the skills and knowledge that they will need overseas, or to impart their specialist skills or knowledge to the UK workforce

As far as inter-company transfers are concerned, most shipping staff being transferred will be typically earning over £40k; superintendents invariably earn well above £40k as do all but the most junior chartering staff, so the ICT threshold is unlikely to have a significant impact.

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