Charles Hymas, Telegraph, October 23, 2020
Net migration targets have been abandoned by the Government as it ditches the £35,800 salary cap for migrants to be allowed to settle in the UK.
The new rules for Boris Johnson’s points-based immigration system demolish the last vestiges of Theresa May’s attempts to reduce net migration to tens of thousands.
Skilled migrants will no longer be required to earn £35,800 to be able to settle in the UK but the cap will instead be lowered to £25,600 under the rules, which were quietly slipped out on Thursday and take effect on December 1.
Unskilled migrants on salaries of just £20,480 but with enough points to be allowed into the UK to plug gaps in jobs where there is a shortage of workers, will also be entitled to settle in Britain after six years and become citizens.
Under the current system, migrant workers have had to leave the UK after six years unless they earned £35,800 a year, a rule introduced in 2011 by Mrs May to reduce net migration when she was Home Secretary.
Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, which identified the change in the dense 507-page rulebook, said it was “the final nail in the coffin of the net migration target”.
“They are acknowledging that the bluntest of all the instruments the Government used to get to that target of tens of thousands has been kicked into touch,” said Rob McNeill, the deputy director of the Migration Observatory.
Critics claimed that the change had been “sneaked in” without consultation and had bypassed scrutiny as part of the points-based immigration bill.
Alp Mehmet, the chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: “This is quite outrageous. It will weaken immigration control further and risks helping drive settlement beyond even the record highs of a decade ago. It will also reduce the incentive for employers to train British workers.
“To make matters worse, these major changes are being sneaked in through the back door with scant detail and a lack of advance warning.”
The Home Office confirmed the move, with a spokesman saying: “We have changed the salary threshold required for settlement from £35,800 to either the general level – £25,600 – or the going rate for the individual’s profession, whichever is higher.”
However, it maintained that the Government remained committed to reducing net migration. A source said: “We have always maintained we will bring the overall numbers down.”
The new post-Brexit points-based immigration system will end unskilled migration to the UK unless for a stipulated shortage job but lifts the cap on skilled workers to from both the EU and rest of the world.
Peter Walsh, the Migration Observatory specialist who spotted the settlement salary change, said it was “a notable liberalisation” on the current system”, adding: “It means people can settle on salaries as low as £20,480 for those in shortage occupations.
“And it fits with the broader changes to the immigration system that are being introduced, now that policy has moved beyond trying to get net migration to under 100,000 per year.”