British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced new plans to ‘significantly reduce’ immigration to the UK from outside of the European Union. Plans include raising the salary threshold for the Tier 2 (General) visa.
Migration Advisory Committee to consult on anti-immigration measures
Speaking during Prime Minister’s questions on June 10th, the prime minister announced that home secretary Theresa May will ask the Migration Advisory Committee – a semi-independent body set up to advise on immigration policy – to consider several new proposals in order to reduce net migration to under 100,000 annually; mentioned in the last two Conservative election manifestos, and repeated recently by the Prime Minister’s team.
Visa restrictions announced
EU rules on freedom of movement within the EU means that there is not much that the Government can do to reduce immigration from EU Countries. Therefore in an attempt to reduce immigration the Migration Advisory Committee will focus on immigration from outside of the European Economic Area. Proposals the committee will consider include:
- Restricting the availability of work visas, such as the Tier 2 for skilled migrants, to only those who come under ‘skill shortages and specialists’.
- Limiting the time ‘a sector can claim to have a skills shortage’ on the Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List
- Introducing a ‘skills levy on businesses who recruit foreign workers’
- Increasing the Tier 2 (General) visa salary threshold
Tier 2 visas targeted
The proposals announced focus on the Tier 2 general visa, which enables UK employers holding a Tier 2 sponsorship licence to employ skilled migrants from outside of the European Economic Area.
Current rules say that applicants for Tier 2 visas must normally have been offered a UK job which pays a minimum of £20,800 per year. It is proposed that this figure is increased. By how much we currently do not know. In any event this is only the minimum salary for the Tier 2 visa scheme. It is already the case that for most occupations on the Tier 2 occupation list the minimum salary requirement is much higher than this.
To come under the Tier 2 visa scheme you need to gain 70 points or more under the points test; You gain points for having a Certificate of Sponsorship from a UK employer, having sufficient savings, and for meeting the Tier 2 English language requirements.
Proposals condemned by experts
Speaking to BBC News, Migration Advisory Committee chairman David Metcalf predicted ‘unexpected side effects’ for the UK economy if the new proposals are implemented.
Katja Hall, director general of the Confederation of British Industry responded to the announcement, saying: “Limiting highly skilled workers from coming to the UK is not the answer.
“They bring their skills and ideas to this country, pay their taxes here and boost growth. We need to keep up-skilling our population, but at the same time as attracting the best and brightest global talent.”