Britain will prioritise access for high-skilled workers from around the world in its post-Brexit, points-based immigration system, the government said on Tuesday, setting out its plans to put an end to a reliance on “cheap labour from Europe”.
Concern over the impact of high levels of immigration from the European Union was one of the key drivers behind Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the bloc and the government has said it plans to bring overall migration numbers down.
The new system will assign points for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions and only give visas to those who have enough points. It will come into force from Jan. 1, 2021 and will treat EU and non-EU citizens the same.
“For the first time in decades, the UK will have full control over who comes to this country and how our immigration system operates,” the government said in a policy document setting out its plans.
EU citizens will not need a visa to enter Britain as a visitor for up to six months.
The Home Office said it would follow a recommendation made last month by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), an independent body which advises the government, to lower the minimum general salary threshold for skilled migrants to 25,600 pounds ($33,330) a year, from 30,000 pounds.
Skilled workers will need to meet criteria including specific skills and the ability to speak English, the government said, and those applying will need to have a job offer.
There will be no specific entry route for low-skilled workers, something the government hopes will help reduce the number of migrants.
“We need to shift the focus of our economy away from reliance on cheap labour from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation. Employers will need to adjust,” the policy document said.
The MAC estimated the impact of the government’s planned salary and skills thresholds would mean around 70% of European Economic Area citizens who have arrived in Britain since 2004 would not have been eligible for a visa.
Students will be covered by the points-based system, the government said, while there will be separate initiatives for scientists, graduates, National Health Service workers and those in the agricultural sector
Here is some reaction to it.
Confederation of British Industry
“Several aspects of the new system will be welcomed by business, particularly abolishing the cap on skilled visas, introducing a new post-study work visa for overseas students, and reducing the minimum salary threshold from 30,000 pounds ($38,982),” said director general Carolyn Fairbairn.
“Nonetheless, in some sectors firms will be left wondering how they will recruit the people needed to run their businesses. With already low unemployment, firms in care, construction, hospitality, food and drink could be most affected.”
British Chambers of Commerce
“Companies are already investing heavily in home-grown talent across the UK, but critical labour shortages mean firms will still need access to overseas workers at all skill levels,” said BCC director general Adam Marshall.
“The new points system must be able to respond quickly to changing market needs, and the application process must be radically simplified.”
British Retail Consortium
“Although we welcome the reduction in the salary threshold, it is disappointing that the government has not understood the needs of the economy and the vital contribution of workers supporting the operation of warehouses, food factories and city centre stores,” said Tom Ironside, BRC director of business and regulation.
National Farmers Union
“We have said repeatedly that for farm businesses it is about having the full range of skills needed – from pickers and packers to meat processors and vets – if we are to continue to deliver high quality, affordable food for the public. Failure to provide an entry route for these jobs will severely impact the farming sector,” said NFU President Minette Batters.
Opposition Labour Party
“This isn’t an ‘Australian points-based system’, which is a meaningless government soundbite. It’s a salary threshold system, which will need to have so many exemptions, for the NHS, for social care and many parts of the private sector, that it will be meaningless,” said shadow home secretary Diane Abbott.