The government has revealed that, in a bid to ease the pressure on the NHS, firms may be forced to take out private health insurance for migrant workers.
The plan is one of a number of measures being considered by the government to cap the number of skilled migrants from outside the EU coming to the UK next year.
Home Secretary Theresa May has already announced an immediate 5% reduction in migrant arrivals this year to prevent a surge of applications before the actual limits come into place in April 2011.
As an independent body considers the limits, Mrs May said factors such as the impact on education, health and housing would all be taken into account.
And she rejected fears it could prevent firms recruiting the experienced staff they needed – launching a 12-week consultation with business over how the cap would work in practice.
The government said the cap was "an important part" of efforts to reduce net immigration to the "tens of thousands" a year, rather than the hundreds of thousands.
But Shadow Home Secretary Alan Johnson said it was a "minor" change that would not only apply to just one in seven would-be migrants but would hit those most needed by the UK's economy.
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