Govt announces a bold plan to clamp down on legal migration
Challenged with net migration figures, Mr Cleverly, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, has come up with what was described as a most robust proposal designed to reduce net migration by… drastically undercutting legal migration. Immigration lawyers may be perplexed about the efficacy of the proposed measure, but there is no doubt that the measures are strong, if not particularly robust in the conventional sense. The plan is expected to be implemented in spring 2024 after some further elaboration.
The essence of the proposal is as follows:
Care workers will not be allowed to bring their dependants to the UK
This first point of the proposal comes as an utterly ingenious way of handling what Mr Cleverly called “abuse of the Health and Care visa”. In his address to the Parliament, the Home Secretary described the abuse in these terms: “Approximately 120 thousand dependants accompanied 100 thousand care workers and senior care workers in the UK in the year ending September 2023. Only 25% of dependants are estimated to be in work meaning that a significant number are drawing on public services rather than helping to grow the economy.”
It is totally unclear why dependants of the carer workers are particularly problematic for the UK economy or what detriment stems from them not working in the UK. It is at least doubtful that statistics of the number of dependents of carers in the UK exists, let alone the number of them engaged in economic activity. Since there is no “carer visa” in the UK, only specific occupation codes which include carers and senior carers, collecting statistical data on the occupations of dependants of carer workers would be comparable to collecting information on the activities of dependants of physicists, or biologists, or IT professionals. Collecting this information would be quite a big expense, the justification of which would not be immediately clear.
Increase the minimum salary for the skilled worker visa
Currently, the general minimum threshold for a skilled worker visa is £26,200. It is proposed that this figure is to be increased to £38,700. This means that a vast number of professions listed in Appendix Skilled Occupations in the Immigration Rules will have to be paid above the “going rate” – which is the official median rate for the job. For example, the going rate for the job for managers of various types of small businesses is between £20K and £30K a month. Many academic positions, including social and humanities scientists, natural and social science professionals, chemists, biologists, ecologists, conservation professionals, have a going rate below £38,700.
Ironically, there is no sign that minimum wages are to be affected in any comparable way. And since Britain is in a sore need of carers, the increased salary threshold will not affect the care workers. They will just be unable to come to the UK with dependants.
Scrap cut-price shortage labour from overseas
It is not quite clear how this slogan will pan out in practical terms, as no specific details have been proposed. Apparently, the 20% discount on the standard going rate, or the general minimum threshold, is no longer satisfactory. The Shortage Occupation List will be reviewed and the rules applicable to shortage occupation professions will be reformed.
And yet, care workers still have to be sourced from abroad. There is a shortage of carpenters, bricklayers, roofers, plasterers, graphic designers, nurses, paramedics and social workers. All of them would welcome a salary of £38,700 or above – but is it sustainable with the current state of economy?
Increase the minimum salary threshold for partners of British citizens
It is proposed that for the spouse visa the current minimum income threshold of £18,600 is increased to the same £38,700. This will be in relation to earnings from employment, self-employment, rental income, and pension. The latter is particularly ironic in light of the current state pension figures.
But the message is clear – if you cannot afford a foreign partner, marry a Brit.
Review of the graduate route
Graduate route came under attack with recollection of the previously introduced measures restricting students’ rights to bring their dependants with them. Since Graduates are not allowed new dependants in this route, it remains to be seen what tightening measure the government will come up with. It is possible that the route will scrapped again, as the Post-Study Work route was scrapped in its time, or will be reduced to 1 year instead of 2, or would require sponsored employment similar to skilled worker but with a lower salary threshold. One may guess, but it’s difficult to come up with anything comparable in ingenuity with the robust proposal of Mr Cleverly.