LATEST: Immigration White Paper
details announced

With only 100 days until Brexit, the Home Secretary Sajid Javid has just announced the government’s latest White Paper, this one with proposed new rules on immigration.

Javid described the policies as ‘the biggest shake-up in 40 years’ believing that it would ‘get control over our borders and will bring in a new system that works in the interest of the British people.

‘It will be a single, skills-based immigration system built around the talent and expertise people can bring, rather than where they come from – maximising the benefits of immigration and demonstrating the UK is open for business.’

He continued:

‘Immigration is good for our country. It has made us stronger in countless ways.

‘I am a second-generation migrant myself and if I look at people such as my parents I can see how they have helped this country in so many ways.’ 

We summarise the main points of the White Paper below.

Freedom of movement ends

The Prime Minister is said to have personally intervened in adding the words ‘ending of free movement of people’ to the Brexit negotiation documents which are a blueprint for UK-EU relationship. As it is a reciprocal arrangement, any UK nationals living and working in the EU will also have their rights curtailed.

There are around one million British-born citizens in the 26 remaining member states, a quarter of whom are over 65.

Low-paid or low-skilled?

The White Paper confirms that those who are called ‘low-skilled’ workers from EU countries will no longer have an automatic right to work in the UK after Brexit. However, it goes against Conservative party policy for the past eight years in not specifying an immigration target.

Their manifesto pledge is to bring the net migration number down to the tens of thousands. It is currently at 273,000.

Instead, low-skilled workers may be able to apply for short-term visas of up to a year. They won’t be able to access benefits nor bring their family with them.  Once their permit runs out, they must leave the country for at least a year.

As previously reported, seasonal workers in edible horticulture will be permitted to enter the country on a separate scheme.

Skilled migrants

The White Paper makes amendments to the Tier 2 visa route, which allows foreign workers from outside of the EU to stay for up to five years.

There will be a consultation about the salary threshold of £30,000 as the measure of what constitutes a ‘skilled migrant’. However, this figure, recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), is already considered an unreasonable amount for some regional jobs and for many roles within the NHS and teaching.

An NHS spokeswoman said on Radio 4 this morning:

‘We are deeply concerned about what is going to happen. High skills does not equal high pay.

‘You have starting salaries for nurses at £23,000 – also for paramedics, midwives. Junior doctors starting salaries at £27,000, healthcare assistants at £17,000, all coming in way below that £30,000 cap.

‘It is not just health workers, it is social care as well. We have to remember where the skills lay. They lay in those staff under £30,000.’

Furthermore, once free movement ends, it is proposed that the skills threshold for workers earning £30,000 will be lowered from RQF Level 6 (the equivalent of a undergraduate degree) to RQF Level 3 (similar to A Levels).

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said the government had ‘disgracefully labelled workers on less than £30,000 as low-skilled’ when ‘our economy and public services are kept ticking by this majority of workers’.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the new rules would be ‘devastating for the Scottish economy’ because ‘our demographics make it essential that we attract people to live and work here’.

They will not impose a cap on the numbers of skilled workers ‘to ensure the brightest and best who wish to come to the UK may do so, and employers have access to the skills that add most value to the UK economy’. There will be no cap on high-skilled/highly paid workers.

The end of the Resident Labour Market Test

Under the existing rules, before an employer can sponsor a migrant worker,  they must have advertised the vacancy to the domestic market, for a certain amount of time on a designated website. This was to ensure that the job was made available to a UK-born employee first.

In future, following the recommendations of the MAC, there will no longer be a legal requirement to carry out a resident labour market test (RLMT).

The main impact of abolishing the RLMT should be a reduction in admin costs for employers. UK-born workers will be protected from being under-cut by ‘a robust approach to salary thresholds and the Immigration Skills Charge.’

No limit on international students

As many ‘genuine’ foreign students who wish to will be allowed to come to the UK to study. Once they have finished their course, they will be allowed to stay to find work  for six months if they have obtained a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and 12 months if they are now a PhD.

All of these changes will be implemented in a phased approach from 2021, following a year-long programme of engagement with businesses, stakeholders and the public by the Home Office.

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