UK immigration 'will not drop significantly'

23 Dec 2010 | Posted by Carl Thomas

UK immigration levels will remain similar to those seen over the last decade in 2011, according to recent research.

Conducted by the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr), the study claimed that net migration for 2011 would be unlikely to fall much below the average annual level of 200,000.

This is despite the government's intentions to lower the figure to the tens of thousands following the Conservative's election pledge.

While the recently-introduced UK immigration cap will hamper work permit applications from outside the European economic area, the think tank suggested the strength of the British economy in comparison to many eurozone countries could result in an increase of immigrants from within the EU.

Countries such as Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain have experienced significant economic difficulties over the course of the year. Indeed, both Greece and Ireland have received financial bail-outs from the International Monetary Fund this year in a bid to protect the wider eurozone economy.

Nick Pearce, director of the ippr, commented: "A sharp drop in immigration is unlikely to happen in 2011 on current trends, so ministers must be careful to manage down public expectations.

"The cap on skilled migration from outside the EU, which the government has already been put in place, could hurt the economic recovery. Other hasty measures to reduce numbers artificially would be even more damaging."

However, Mr Pearce added that lowering immigration is a "legitimate policy goal", but that it must be done through "sustainable reforms" over the long-term.

Earlier this year the home secretary Theresa May confirmed that Tier 1 visas and Tier 2 UK work permits will be limited to 21,700 a year from April 2011. The 'exceptional talent' route for Tier 1 permits will be limited to 1,000, with the remaining 20,700 work permits allotted to skilled workers in the Tier 2 group.

Furthermore, all occupations in the Tier 2 level will be required to be at graduate level.