With net migration figures expected to reach record levels, UK political parties are hurriedly shaping their positions on immigration and are debating proposed options from the Home Office. There have also been changes surrounding international students.

With anticipation that the net migration figures to the UK will come in at between 700,000 to 1,000,000 when published on 26th May, it will come as no surprise that political parties are scrambling to set out their position for the UK electorate. It seems that there are two positions which could be taken:

  1. To assert that the UK has control of UK immigration after Brexit and that the high numbers of people coming to the UK are needed for the economy or,
  2. To assert that the net migration figures are too high and the brakes must be put on to address this.

We understand that No. 10 has been briefed with options on how to cut the numbers and the following areas have been under debate. In fact, point one below has already been put into effect earlier this week:

  1. Remove or restrict the right of dependent family members to accompany international  students.
  2. Remove or restrict the right of dependent family members to accompany workers.
  3. Increase the skills level of those seeking work sponsorship.
  4. Increase the minimum salary levels for sponsored workers
  5. Implement a cap on the overall number of sponsored workers
  6. Removing the automatic right to permanent residency for sponsored workers
  7. Making the two-year work visa less attractive for those who have graduated in the UK

The Home Secretary has now announced that the following changes regarding international students:

  • Removing the right for international students to bring dependants unless they are on postgraduate courses currently designated as research programmes.
  • Removing the ability for international students to switch out of the student route into work routes before their studies have been completed.
  • Reviewing the maintenance requirements for students and dependants.
  • Steps to clamp down on unscrupulous education agents who may be supporting inappropriate applications to sell immigration, not education.
  • Better communication about immigration rules to the higher education sector and to international students.
  • Improved and more targeted enforcement activity. 

Read more: UK Home Office to stop international students from bringing family

Going to the UK on a Skilled Worker visa

As part of its post-Brexit immigration changes, the UK introduced a points-based work visa system with a view to grow and retain skills after the country’s divorce from the EU. The current Skilled Worker visa allows you to live and work in the UK for a sponsoring employer for an initial period of two and a half years. You are able to extend this visa for another two and a half years, after which you become eligible for indefinite leave to remain (ILR). This is a popular route for those who are looking to immigrate to the UK permanently.

In 2020, prior to Brexit, 72,090 workers came into the UK on a Skilled Worker visa, compared to the latest figures of 314,064. While it may seem like this could be the result of EU workers now needing visas, this is not the case. The top three countries contributing to these numbers were India, Nigeria and the Philippines. In fact, the highest-ranking EU country on the list of work visa applications is France at thirteenth place.

Our view is that the changes being discussed represent the Home Secretary’s wish list to cut overall migration to the UK, but it seems that she is the only one that thinks this is a good idea. The PM does not seem to share her views.

Bottom line: If the above recommendations for skilled workers were to come into force, it would decimate immigration numbers, which would not be great for the country.

Our consultants stay up to date on all the changes to UK immigration rules. If you have any questions about obtaining a UK visa, switching to a different visa or applying for indefinite leave to remain, get in touch with us on +27 (0) 21 657 2180 or at immigration@sableinternational.com

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