By Moustafa Daly
The United Kingdom is introducing stricter migration rules for foreign workers to curb record migration levels starting in the spring of 2024.
The new measures come after net migration to the UK reached 672,000 in the year ending in June 2023, prompting criticism from conservative political parties that the government isn’t doing enough to slash immigration levels. In 2022, a record number of 745,000 people migrated to the country through different visa routes.
The measures are seen as politically motivated.
“The changes appear to be needed from a current political perspective but are not justified on an economic basis,” explains Teni Shahiean, partner and CEO at OTS Solicitors. It concerns me that the UK is changing the government‘s policy on legal migration without any clear evidence that the UK has analyzed the net economic benefit of skilled legal migration.”
Announced by Home Secretary James Cleverly in a parliament speech, a five-tiered plan is already in effect, aiming to drastically lower immigration levels by as much as 300,000 a year.
What are the new requirements for skilled foreigners in the UK?
One of the first changes is nearly doubling the minimum salary requirement for skilled workers, from £26,200 to £38,700; same for family visas.
The hike, while maybe effective in reducing immigration, could have negative economic consequences.
“Increasing the minimum salary threshold for the Skilled Worker Visa to £38,700 a year is a massive step. It could spell financial problems for some UK business owners who cannot recruit the staff they need from within the UK and who may no longer be able to secure the staff they need from overseas,” explains Shahiean.
“A salary of £38,700 is not considered average in the UK for many of the jobs eligible for the Skilled Worker Visa. Looking forward, that could result in price rises, inflationary pressures and job cuts,” she adds.
Moreover, the higher salary threshold could prove a challenge to the growth of UK businesses that
often resort to hiring skilled foreign labor to shore up a talent and skill gap in the UK market.
“In my work, UK business owners tell me there is a complete mismatch between the available UK workers’ skills and the skilled jobs UK companies are recruiting to fill, hence the reliance on global talent through the Skilled Worker Visa and business visa routes,” elaborates Shahiean.
This threshold doesn’t apply to health and social workers. However, they will no longer be able to bring their dependents along with them as per the new rules.
“Approximately 120,000 dependents accompanied 100,000 care workers in the year ending September 2023,” said Cleverly to MPs. “Only 25% of dependents are estimated to be in work. Meaning a significant number are drawing on public services rather than helping grow the economy.”
The government expects the measure to lessen pressure on public services like healthcare and education and help achieve the immigration reduction target of 300,000.
Immigration and border control have been central to British politics for nearly a decade. Rising legal and illegal immigration levels have increased the popularity of right-wing parties with rising anti-immigration sentiments becoming evident.
“When our country voted to leave the European Union, we also voted to take back control of our borders,” said Cleverly.
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