THE government will cap the number of skilled migrant workers it allows from outside the European Union at 21,700 a year, a cut of more than a fifth from 2009 levels.
Home Secretary Theresa May told parliament today that employees sent to work in Britain by companies from another country would not be subject to a cap if they earned more than £40,000 a year.
"We must tighten up our immigration system," she said. "It is possible to reduce numbers while promoting growth and underlining the message that Britain is open for business."
The government will cut the number of highly-skilled workers who enter the country without a job offer by 13,000 from last year's level to 1,000.
Permits will be limited to "exceptional talent" such as scientists, academics and artists.
The number of workers with job offers will be increased by nearly 7,000 to 20,700, although tighter rules will be applied, restricting permits to graduate-level jobs, May said.
There will be no limit on investors and entrepreneurs.
May also said the coalition government, which plans to bring net migration down to the tens of thousands from nearly 200,000 by 2015, would stop temporary workers coming to Britain and settling permanently.
"We will end the link between temporary and permanent migration," she said.
The CBI, the UK industry lobby group, said the government has "listened to the needs of business."
John Cridland, CBI director-general designate, said: "This is a good result for the economy and for the country as a whole, and sends out the message that Britain really is open for business.
“The new system rightly gives priority to people with a job offer over those without one, so companies will still be able to access talent from around the world.
“Exempting most ‘Intra-Company Transfers’ from the cap will also allow firms with international operations to manage their global workforce effectively.
"This will make sure that the UK remains an attractive place to base new projects and investment, which means more jobs for UK workers."