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Stricter visa rules to cut migration to UK

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-12-06 09:19
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A Union flag hangs across a street of houses in London, on June 3, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

Nation unveils a package of measures in bid to reduce arrivals by 300,000

In an effort to reduce annual immigration by 300,000, the United Kingdom plans to increase the minimum salary requirements for skilled foreign workers by one-third and prohibit them from bringing their families to the country.

The UK's Home Secretary James Cleverly has announced a package of measures aimed at making it much more difficult for employers to hire from overseas, even in vital sectors such as healthcare and social care.

Statistics published last month showed annual net migration to the UK hit a record of 745,000 last year, with many more migrants now coming from Asia and Africa instead of the European Union.

High legal migration numbers were a factor in the UK's 2016 decision to leave the EU, and the UK's Conservative government has pledged to secure greater control on the issue.

With the opposition Labour Party leading in opinion polls ahead of an anticipated election next year, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is under pressure from lawmakers within his own party to take action.

Addressing Parliament on Monday, Cleverly said the minimum salary threshold for a skilled worker visa would increase to 38,700 pounds ($48,800), and the provision allowing certain professions to be hired at 20 percent below the prevailing rate would end.

"Enough is enough," he said as he presented the strategy, which comes in early next year.

"It is clear that net migration remains far too high," Cleverly said.

"By leaving the European Union, we gained control over who can come to the UK, but far more must be done to bring those numbers down so British workers are not undercut and our public services put under less strain.

"My plan will deliver the biggest-ever reduction in net migration and will mean around 300,000 people who came to the UK last year would not have been able to do so. I am taking decisive action to halt the drastic rise in our work visa routes and crack down on those who seek to take advantage of our hospitality."

'Chaotic panic'

In response, Labour's shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, told Parliament the government was in a state of "chaotic panic" regarding immigration, and that the change in rules was "an admission of years of total failure by this Conservative government".

In a statement, the Confederation of British Industry said the changes would not address the shortages "that are currently holding back business investment and growth".

NHS Providers, which represents health trusts, said: "It's vital that overseas health and care staff continue to view the UK as a viable place to work and live."

With more than 120,000 staff members in shortage in the National Health Service and more than 150,000 in social care, measures that deter people from joining these professions are deeply concerning, it said.

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