The UK government said doctors and nurses working in the state-run National Health Service (NHS) would be excluded from an annual cap on skilled workers from outside the European Union.
Prime Minister Theresa May introduced the cap in 2010 when she was interior minister but has faced growing demands from the healthcare sector to review it due to a shortage of staff that has left hundreds of NHS posts unfilled.
The annual limit of 20,700 on all non-EU skilled workers, broken down into monthly quotas, has been breached every month since December.
May had promised to end EU freedom of movement after Brexit, but she has yet to publish her plans for a new immigration system.
She wants migration controlled but says Britain should also attract the “best and the brightest” from around the world.
The government has announced a new “start-up” visa for technology entrepreneurs, which will replace a visa route that was previously only open to graduates.
Migration Watch, a pressure group demanding tighter controls, reacted with disappointment to the government’s changes on doctors’ visas.
“It may be necessary, at least temporarily, to cope with the prospect of Brexit, but in the longer term the answer has to be to train our own medics and not take them from countries that need them far more than we do,” chairman Andrew Green told the Daily Telegraph.