In a move aimed at reducing annual immigration figures, the British government has introduced stringent immigration rules, announced by Home Secretary James Cleverly on Monday. The government cites the need for robust action to control the record-breaking influx of nearly 750,000 people in 2022.
Under the newly introduced rules, prospective immigrants will face increased income thresholds to qualify for work visas and encounter greater difficulty bringing family members to the UK. Cleverly outlined that starting from the spring of 2024, individuals seeking skilled worker visas must earn £38,700 ($48,900), up from the current £26,200 ($33,000). Additionally, British citizens aiming to bring foreign spouses to the UK will now need to meet the same income requirement, almost doubling the existing threshold.
While health and social care, industries heavily reliant on immigrant staff, are exempt from the salary rule, overseas care workers will no longer be allowed to bring dependent relatives with them to Britain, sparking concerns of a potential decline in immigration to these sectors.
The government also declared the abolition of a rule permitting employers in sectors facing a shortage of workers to pay immigrant employees 20% less than UK citizens. Starting in January, most foreign graduate students will be unable to bring family members to the UK.
Cleverly asserted that these measures would reduce the eligibility of around 300,000 individuals to move to Britain in the coming years. Revised figures from the Office for National Statistics indicated that net migration to the UK reached a record 745,000 in 2022 but decreased to 672,000 in the 12 months to June 2023.
The Conservative Party believes that curbing immigration will garner support ahead of the upcoming election, as voters express concerns about pressure on public services and housing. However, economists argue that immigrants play a crucial role in filling essential jobs, particularly in healthcare and low-paid social care roles, contributing more to the economy than they receive.
Yvette Cooper, the immigration spokeswoman for the opposition Labour Party, criticised the government for failing to train UK workers to fill key roles.