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Home Secretary vows to reduce net migration.

January 31, 2024

Measures to transform the UK’s legal migration system, bolster border security and drive down unsustainable and unfair levels of migration will come into force within weeks, the Home Secretary has announced today.

It comes after the Prime Minister and Home Secretary set out a major new package of reforms in December, delivering the biggest ever reduction in net migration and tackling exploitation across the immigration system.

The robust changes, which will curb abuse of the migration system, and ensure those choosing to make the UK their home can afford to do so, will begin to come into effect as early as March and will mean 300,000 people who came to the UK last year would now not be able to come.

They include:

  • reforms that will restrict care workers from bringing dependants and require care providers to register with the Care Quality Commission if they are sponsoring migrants, which will come into force on 11 March
  • the laying of Immigration Rules, which will include the removal of the 20% going rate discount for occupations on the Shortage Occupation List on 14 March
  • a new increase to the minimum salary required for those arriving on the Skilled Worker visa, from £26,200 to £38,700, on 4 April
  • increasing the minimum income requirement threshold in stages for family visas, starting at £29,000 from 11 April

Reforms to student visas came into force at the start of January, ending the ability of nearly all postgraduate students to bring dependants to the UK.

The measures will crack down on rising migration, help curb the abuse of the Health and Care visa route, where we have seen people come to the UK for care worker jobs that do not exist or are paid significantly less than the required salary for a migrant worker on this route, and ensure British labour is not undercut by overseas workers. 

Home Secretary James Cleverly said: 

I’ve been clear that migration is too high and we must get back to sustainable levels. Last year I set out robust measures to reduce the numbers coming into our country – tightening the rules on care workers, skilled workers, and making sure that people can support their family members that they bring over.

It is a firm approach, but a fair one, and gives those affected time to prepare whilst ensuring that migration comes down. The British people want to see action, not words. We are delivering the change we promised and which they expect, lifting pressure on public services and protecting British workers with the utmost urgency.

Tom Pursglove MP, Minister for Legal Migration and the Border, said: 

Our comprehensive plan to tackle net migration will not only bring numbers down substantially, but also tackles the inherent unfairness of a system which, if left untouched, would reward employers seeking to recruit cheap labour from overseas at the expense of the British worker.

Delivering change on this scale and at such a pace is hard and challenging work, but we’re making strong headway, with further improvements to modernise and enhance the security of the UK border continuing throughout 2024.

Helen Whately, Minister of State for Social Care said:

We’re grateful to overseas care workers but I’m clear that immigration is not the long-term answer to our social care needs. That’s why alongside tightening visa rules we’re reforming social care careers to boost our homegrown care workforce.

We have launched the first ever national career path for care workers and a new care qualification is on the way. These reforms, together with international recruitment under the new rules, will build on the progress made over the last year - of lower staff turnover, fewer vacancies and more people working in social care.

From 4 April, the increase to the minimum salary required for those arriving on the Skilled Worker visa, from £26,200 to £38,700, will come into force. This 48% rise will drive down numbers, reduce pressure on public services and prevent the undercutting of British workers by employers who look to recruit cheap labour from overseas. Workers on a Health and Care visa and on health and education national pay scales will be exempt from this specific threshold. 

Meanwhile, the laying of the new Immigration Rules on 14 March will include the removal of the 20% going rate discount for occupations on the Shortage Occupation List, which will be abolished in favour of a new Immigration Salary List from early April. This follows a recommendation from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which will now advise government on which occupations should be temporarily added to the new list initially, in time for March.  

The minimum income requirement for family visas will rise in stages to give predictability to families, starting at £29,000 from 11 April. By early 2025 this will have increased to £38,700, ensuring only dependants that can be supported financially are brought to the UK. 

The major transformation to legal migration comes as the Home Office continues to deliver the Prime Minister’s priority to stop the boats and drive down illegal migration. Small boats crossings are down by 46% last year with more than 24,000 people who have no right to be in the UK have been returned.

The government also takes a significant step forward in the long-term modernisation and enhancement of the UK border’s security, with the electronic travel authorisation (ETA) scheme opening for the remaining nationals of the Gulf states and Jordan on Thursday 1 February.

ETAs are a new requirement for passengers visiting or transiting through the UK, who do not currently need a visa for short stays or who do not already have any other UK immigration status. It will continue to be rolled out, worldwide, throughout 2024. Once fully implemented, the scheme will enable a more efficient customer experience and cement the UK as a world leader in border security.

From tomorrow (31 January), the government is also enhancing how the UK does business with the rest of the world. Reforms to the visit visa will be implemented, expanding the permitted activities to make it easier to do business in the UK. 

 These changes demonstrate the government’s commitment to welcome those who are here to contribute their skills and talents to our society and economy. 

Those who come must be willing to contribute to the country. In keeping with this, those who use and benefit from public services, such as the NHS, should make a sufficient financial contribution towards the cost of those services. From 6 February, the Immigration Health Surcharge will be raised by 66% to £1,035. The new rate reflects increases in healthcare expenditure and better reflects the NHS use by migrants, who are provided with near comprehensive access to health services in return. 

Source: GOV.UK

Image: Channels News