The long-awaited White Paper on immigration was published the week before Christmas and largely reflects the recommendations made by the Migration Advisory Committee. The main thrust of the paper is to assert that there will be an end to free movement and the future immigration system will not be based on nationality and instead will be based on workers’ skills. However, the paper goes on to state that future preferential treatment may granted to migrants based on trade deals entered into by the UK which would mean preferential treatment will be based on nationality.
There is good news with the proposed abolition of the cumbersome resident labour market test and the removal of the cap on Tier 2 workers. There are also proposals to allow the skills threshold to be lowered and a temporary measure to be introduced to deal with the shortfall of workers in the healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing and agricultural sectors following the UK’s departure from the EU. This temporary measure will allow low-skilled migration for up to 12 months, there will be a cooling-off period for 12 months (preventing low-skilled migrants from immediately returning to the UK in this capacity) and the route will not lead to settlement. Migrants in this route will also not be able to bring dependants or claim public funds.
The controversial proposed minimum salary threshold of £30,000 has been widely covered in the press and will have a huge impact on the NHS and the education sector in recruiting much needed workers not to mention the impact on other regions of the UK where the median salary level is well below this threshold. The Government has therefore refrained from setting out a minimum salary threshold in the paper and will engage extensively with businesses to consider wider evidence on this proposal.
Concerningly the White Paper also includes evidence that the proposals will lead to an economic deficit for the UK with a reduction in GDP per capita of between 0.1% and 0.2% in 2025 raising fears by many (including the Immigration Law Practitioners Association) that political imperative for restricting immigration has been placed before the UK economy.
Consultation on the White Paper will be open for 12 months and we will be hosting a roundtable discussion in the New Year to welcome your thoughts and feedback on the proposed immigration system.