The tier 1 UK visa applies to those that the UK government feel will be of greatest benefit to the country. This type of visa is awarded to those that are classed as 'highly skilled'.

This fact is mirrored by it replacing a visa named the highly skilled migrant programme; however, there is little difference between the two as they cater for the same class of migrant worker.

To qualify for this type of UK visa the applicant must possess an adequate level of education, previous income, language skills and age to satisfy the criteria for being accepted as a highly skilled migrant and reach the necessary number of points for acceptance. The number of points needed for a tier 1 visa is currently set at 80-points, it was previously at 75, however, this change has little or no effect on the actual bearing of the qualification towards the visa.

Recently the UK government have announced plans to reduce the numbers of migrants working in the UK under this visa. Announcing a temporary cap and in future planning to permanently limit the numbers immigrating to the UK this way.

The current economic climate dictates that workers within this field are reasonably necessary for the continued recovery and some business leaders have voiced concerns, including London mayor Boris Johnson. Whether or not this will have an effect is yet to be seen, although the new rule of imposing healthcare costs also onto the employer will further increase the likelihood of companies having to look from within the UK before they decide to hire foreign workers.

All these changes to the tier 1 UK visa class are designed to increase the UK's own productivity, e.g. Rather than hiring foreign workers from outside of the natural workforce. This will have several results, such as decreasing UK unemployment and training staff from within the UK.
The government have reiterated their pledge to monitor this new change and ensure it does not have an adverse effect on the UK's productivity.

The question does remain, however, that if these foreign workers with skills that cannot be found in the UK are limited than how will companies staff their workforce. Some niche businesses such as software development firms have said that they currently hire between 70-80% highly skilled migrants from outside of the European Union as they simply cannot get the staff to fill the positions any other way. What this will have to result in will be training of staff to keep productivity as it is or outsourcing roles remotely.

What is clear is that the new coalition government are keen to demonstrate they are taking a keen hold of UK immigration and the highly skilled route, whether the introduction of a limit on the numbers of tier 1 UK visa applications will have a detrimental effect on productivity remains to be seen.