UK Government announces Five-Point plan to reduce immigration

The UK government has unveiled a fresh strategy to reduce immigration, outlining a five-point plan. This initiative involves prohibiting care workers from relocating with their families and increasing the minimum salary required for a skilled worker visa.

James Cleverly, who assumed the role of home secretary three weeks ago, has faced mounting pressure to demonstrate a firm stance on immigration.

The Conservatives express frustration over recent legal challenges impeding the Rwanda deportation plan and the recorded net migration reaching 745,000 in the previous year.

The comprehensive five-point plan, described by Mr. Cleverly as “more robust” than previous government approaches to migration, encompasses various measures affecting health and care visas, skilled worker visas, family visas, the shortage occupation list, and student visas.

Here are the details of the measures:

Health and care visas: The plan aims to curb the “abuse of the health and care visa” by stopping overseas care workers from bringing family dependants. Care firms seeking to sponsor visa applicants must be regulated by the Care Quality Commission. The government defines dependants as spouses, civil partners, unmarried partners, and children under 18.

Skilled worker visa minimum salary change: The application threshold will undergo a nearly 50% increase from £26,200 to £38,700. However, health and care workers will still have a lower earning threshold for this visa route.

Shortage occupation list: To eliminate “cut-price shortage labour from overseas,” the government plans to reform the application process for individuals working in understaffed sectors. This includes removing the 20% discount applied to the minimum salary for shortage occupation visas, with a review and reduction of the types of jobs on the list.

Family visas: The minimum threshold for a family visa will be raised to £38,700, ensuring that individuals can financially support their dependants. This represents an increase from the current 2012 rate of £18,600.

Student visas: Building on previous restrictions on bringing family members on student visas, the government will task the Migration Advisory Committee with reviewing the graduate route. The aim is to prevent abuse and safeguard the integrity and quality of higher education in the UK.

Mr. Cleverly asserted that the proposed measures, along with previously announced ones regarding students, would have prevented approximately 300,000 individuals who entered the UK last year from doing so. Additionally, he reiterated plans to raise the immigration health surcharge from £624 to £1,035.

In addressing MPs, he stated, “When our country voted to leave the European Union, we voted to take back control of our borders.” He emphasised the implementation of a points-based immigration system that allows the UK to manage who enters, prioritising skills and talent to support economic growth and the NHS. Cleverly highlighted the government’s commitment to a competitive visa system for globally mobile talent, emphasising the need for fair, consistent, legal, and sustainable immigration policies.

Responding to a question from Tory MP Damian Green about the potential impact on care workers, Cleverly did not anticipate a decrease in the number of individuals working in the UK health and care sector. He expressed hope that the domestic supply could fill any gaps. The home secretary outlined the plan’s goal to prevent around “120,000 dependants” from entering on health and care visas.

Labour’s shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, characterised the statement as an acknowledgment of “years of total failure” by the government. She accused Rishi Sunak of “reversing policies he introduced” and noted that Labour had previously called for the removal of the 20% discount to shortage occupation lists.

UKHospitality, a trade body for the hospitality sector, raised concerns, stating that the proposed changes would have halted 95% of the 8,500 visas granted for chefs and managers last year. They warned that this could exacerbate the shortages already faced by hospitality businesses.

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