The UK Government’s new immigration rules were published yesterday, 19 February, to the consternation of many who were holding out for an ‘Australian’ system – or any meaningful change whatsoever.
If anything, the Home Office’s promising ‘new vision’ is actually the same provision shared by former Prime Minister, Theresa May, way back when she was Home Secretary.
Nevertheless, as of 2021, all EU migrants entering the country will be required to score and collect a series of points to be considered a visa in almost the very same way that non-EU international migrants do now. Points are earned based on salary, English ability and having a job offer among others and must altogether accumulate up to 70 points.
Although some tweaks have been made here and there, the scariest aspect of the press release is that the Tory party appears to have pledged its lifelong allegiance to the hostile environment, carrying Mrs May’s gauntlet on until the bitter end.
The scariest aspect of the press release is that the Tory party appears to have pledged its lifelong allegiance to the hostile environment
However, credit where credit is due: Johnson’s hash at the rules do appear to show his cabinet may have tuned in to some of the concerns up and down the country. This includes:
- Lowering the academic expectation from RQF6 to RQF3 – although those with a PhD, especially in STEM subjects, will rake in a whole 10 more points
- Axing the cap on skilled workers (which May actually did promise too)
- Ending the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) (which was another May special)
- And ‘streamlining’ the Sponsorship Licence process for employers (which also has May all over it)
Chopping the RLMT and fixing up the laborious sponsorship process are two factors that are particularly beneficial to businesses and industries in the UK. They will now be able to quickly and directly hire talent from overseas without having to twiddle their thumbs for 28-days in the face of slim pickings in local communities. (After all, isn’t the UK ‘booming’ in employment right now?)
Chopping the RLMT and fixing up the laborious sponsorship process are two factors that are particularly beneficial to businesses
In addition, the Tier 2 Work Visa income requirement has been lowered in tune with that of the working world.
In accordance with the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC)’s recommendations, migrant workers will no longer need to earn a minimum of £30,000 to be eligible for a work visa. UK businesses can now offer prospective staff £25,600 – which can even go as far down to £20,480 if that job is on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). A key example where the SOL shines through is for teachers, nurses, doctors and engineers – all of which receive a jolly thumbs up from the Government to enter with a lower salary and a halved visa fee.
One – albeit surprising – element to the rules is that migrants will further be able to ‘trade’ characteristics and points in exchange for other qualifying factors they may redeem. For instance, they may be able to swap a specific job offer and their qualifications against a lower salary.
If the likes of Spain were to reciprocate such a requirement, the UK would be best to prepare itself for an expat exodus to swarm back into the country
However, contentious points such as English language ability remain a non-negotiable and non-tradable requirement. Is it really fair to expect every overseas entrant to speak fluent English before they step foot in the country if they wish to stay here for longer than 6 months? If the likes of Spain were to reciprocate such a requirement, the UK would be best to prepare itself for an expat exodus to swarm back into the country. The UK would quickly become overrun with exiled, leather-worn retirees – which hardly fits Priti Patel’s design to ‘recycle’ those currently unemployed (or ‘economically inactive‘) into sectors that are understaffed.
Inevitably, the tweaks that have been made have rained on the parade of the far-right who see the inches of progress being made to be intrinsic of Boris Johnson’s secret liberal double-life where his soft spot for immigration can’t help but burst through the seems. Already there is talk of the system “opening up the floodgates”, but such hot-headed concern doesn’t take into consideration the eye-watering fees that many migrants and their families will see as a deterring factor – especially since all remaining 27 EU member states remain free and open for business.
A key example where the SOL shines through is for teachers, nurses, doctors and engineers – all of which receive a jolly thumbs up from the Government to enter with a lower salary and a halved visa fee
The Immigration Health Surcharge fee stands firmly at £400 per person per year of stay in the UK, although Johnson has expressed desire to increase this to £625. In short, this would cost a worker on a five-year stay up to £3,125 upfront which must be accompanied by the equally-extortionate visa fee.
There is no discount for a new entrant bringing in their child or spouse either – and these too will be subject to the immigration rules which isn’t particularly kind to families. Spouses who earn below the salary expectation in the UK may well get used to a new, modern way of living in what has been coined as ‘Skype families’ as so often the rules segregate married couples.
Another controversial downside of the new rules is that the one meagre lifeline May threw to so-called “lower-skilled” (meaning “low-paid”) industries has been axed out entirely. The 12-Month Temporary Visa outlined in the 2018 White Paper will never see the light of day.
Having said that, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The route was fraught with complications as many feared it was bound to become a hotbed for trafficking and exploitative labour, offering workers no real rights or footing during their time in the UK since they were unable to swap or seek new employers in the UK, bring any family members with them or use their year of work experience towards settled status in the country.
But such hot-headed concern doesn’t take into consideration the eye-watering fees that many migrants and their families will see as a deterring factor
Although the route was the only glimmer of hope on offer to the likes of care work – which for some bizarre reason isn’t on the SOL and is therefore stifled entirely out of the immigration rules – industry professionals had already deemed the temporary route unfit to meet the demands and needs of the sector. For a start, round-the-clock care work requires significant and timely training, and those in receipt of care are more likely to benefit from regular and familiar faces. The temporary proposal fell short in this respect.
All in all, the ‘new’ rules appear abysmal – probably because they’re just a continuation of what we already have. At the very least the salary requirement has been dropped to a realistic figure, but until visa fees are addressed, discounts for families are introduced and until key sectors like care work are put on the SOL (or at least have payrise), the rules will achieve nothing when it comes to solving workforce shortages sparked by the loss of Free Movement.
It’s a waste of paper, if anything.
[Header image: BBC].