LONDON: Britain´s embattled Conservative government unveiled a raft of measures on Monday aimed at cracking down on record levels of regular migration, including raising the minimum salary threshold for a skilled worker visa.
Immigration is set to be a key issue in a general election expected next year, which the main opposition Labour party is currently favoured to win. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to reduce new arrivals but statistics released last month showed that net migration to Britain hit a high in 2022.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the number of people who arrived in Britain last year was 745,000 more than the number who left. Interior minister James Cleverly said his plan would result in 300,000 fewer people coming to the UK in the coming years.
“Enough is enough,” the home secretary told parliament as he laid out his proposals, which will take effect early next year. Cleverly said skilled foreign workers wanting a UK visa would have to earn £38,700 ($48,860), up from £26,200 -- just over a third more. He exempted health and social care workers, where there are currently staff shortages, in part because of Brexit, but said they would be prevented from bringing family dependents.
Cleverly raised the minimum income for family visas and confirmed restrictions on international students bringing dependents. He also reaffirmed that Britain would increase the surcharge that migrants pay to access the state-run National Health Service (NHS) by 66 percent, to £1,035.
Critics have said this effectively imposes a double charge on migrant workers, as employees have National Insurance charges, which goes towards covering healthcare, deducted from wages at source. Cleverly added that the government would reform the “shortage occupation list”, which details jobs for which employers are not able to find enough British workers.