5th December 2023 – (London) The U.K. government has announced a new five-point plan aimed at reducing immigration by 300,000 people. The measures, introduced by Home Secretary James Cleverly, are part of a broader effort to take a tougher stance on immigration. Last year, net migration reached a record high of 745,000, leading to concerns among conservatives and prompting calls for stricter controls.
The plan, described by Cleverly as “more robust” than previous approaches, focuses on health and care visas, skilled worker visas, family visas, the shortage occupation list, and student visas.
Under the new measures, overseas care workers will no longer be allowed to bring their families to the U.K. This change aims to address the perceived abuse of the health and care visa system. Additionally, care firms seeking to sponsor individuals for visa applications will need to be regulated by the Care Quality Commission. The government defines dependants as spouses, civil partners, unmarried partners, and children under 18.
Furthermore, there will be an increase in the minimum salary requirement for skilled worker visas. The threshold will rise by nearly 50%, from £26,200 to £38,700. However, health and care workers will still be eligible to apply for the visa route even if they earn less than the new threshold.
The government also aims to reform the shortage occupation list to reduce the reliance on overseas workers in sectors facing staff shortages. As part of this reform, the 20% discount applied to the minimum salary for shortage occupation visas will be removed. The list of occupations eligible for this visa will also be reviewed and reduced.
In terms of family visas, the minimum financial threshold will be raised to £38,700. This change is intended to ensure that individuals can financially support their dependants when relocating to the U.K. Currently, the threshold stands at the 2012 rate of £18,600.
Lastly, the government plans to review the graduate route for student visas. This review, to be conducted by the Migration Advisory Committee, aims to prevent abuse and protect the integrity and quality of U.K. higher education. It follows previous tightening measures that restricted the ability to bring family members on student visas.
While the government’s plan has been applauded by those seeking stricter controls on immigration, concerns have been raised by organisations such as UNISON, the largest public service union in the U.K. UNISON expressed worries that the new measures could have disastrous consequences for healthcare services and may deter individuals who had intended to immigrate to the UK from pursuing that option, potentially leading them to choose more welcoming countries instead.