£35,000 Per Year the Price of Settlement

Home Secretary Theresa May has announced that from 2016, migrant workers from outside the EU who wish to settle in the UK must earn at least £35,000.  Mrs May said that this action would help reduce the number of non-Europeans settling from 60,000 per year to 20,000.

The change will apply to skilled migrants who wish to remain in the UK permanently after five years. Those failing to qualify will be required to leave after six years. Exceptions will be made for workers in “shortage occupations”, scientists, researchers in PhD level jobs and Ministers of Religion.

Mrs May said that the measures are intended to ensure that only the “brightest and best” immigrants settle in the UK. In recent years, numbers of migrants remaining permanently have risen from fewer than 10,000 in 1997, to 84,000 in 2010.

Matt Cavanagh of the Institute for Public Policy Research argues that an income requirement of £35,000 is unfair on migrants who have brought much needed skills to the UK, worked hard and paid their taxes. It may even result in skilled migrants being deterred from coming in the first place, causing serious problems for employers. Nurses, he says, will be amongst the most seriously affected. It would be better and fairer all round to look for other measures to encourage migrants to go home, such as offering financial incentives, or providing support to find work in their home countries.

Foreign domestic workers are also facing new restrictions. Only those travelling with their employers will be allowed to work in the UK and they will be required to leave after six months.  Those working in diplomatic households will be able to stay for up to five years. Domestic workers will not be able to extend their stay, switch employer, sponsor dependants or seek settlement.

There will also be more thorough pre-entry checks for domestic workers. Mrs May said: "We recognise that the ODW (overseas domestic worker) routes can at times result in the import of abusive employer/employee relationships to the UK. It is important that those who use these routes to bring their staff here understand what is and is not acceptable. So we will be strengthening pre-entry measures to ensure that domestic workers and their employers understand their respective rights and responsibilities."

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