A new five-point plan to reduce immigration has been announced by the government, which includes banning care workers from bringing over their families and increasing the minimum salary for a skilled worker visa.
Home Secretary James Cleverly has come under pressure since taking office three weeks ago to show he is taking a hardline on immigration.
Today’s five-point plan – which is “more robust” than any previous government’s stance on migration, according to Mr Cleverly – includes measures on health and care visas, skilled worker visas, family visas, the shortage occupation list and student visas.
The measures are:
• Health and care visas: Overseas care workers will not be able to bring family dependants, to end the “abuse of the health and care visa”. Care firms that want to sponsor people for visa applications will need to be regulated by the Care Quality Commission;
• Skilled worker visa minimum salary change: The threshold for an application will rise to £38,700 – although health and care workers will still be able to earn less before applying for the route;
• Shortage occupation list: The government wants to “scrap cut-price shortage labour from overseas” by reforming the way people working in short-staffed sectors can apply to come to the UK. This will include axing the 20% discount applied to the minimum salary for people looking for a visa for shortage occupations. The types of jobs on the list will also be reviewed and reduced;
• Family visas: The minimum threshold for a family visa will also be raised to £38,700 to “ensure people only bring dependants whom they can support financially”. Currently, it stands at the 2012 rate of £18,600;
• Student visas: Following the tightening of who can bring in family members on student visas earlier this year, the government will ask the Migration Advisory Committee to review the graduate route “to prevent abuse and protect the integrity and quality of UK higher education”.
Home secretary knows he needs to sound tough on migration
This is an enormously important statement for the new home secretary.
Barely three weeks into the job, he has seen his polling among Conservative members plummet as he faces pressure over legal and illegal migration.
Today he addressed the former.
A rise in the skilled worker salary threshold, a ban on health and care workers bringing dependants to the UK and a scrapping of the shortage occupation list are among the measures announced to curb net migration.
The clamp down is seen as a win for the immigration minister Robert Jenrick, who is understood to have been pushing for a more hardline approach.
Discomfort in the party has been palpable after the net migration figure for 2022 was revised up to 745,000 last month – the 2019 Conservative manifesto pledged to bring down net migration; Boris Johnson talked about cutting the number to 250,000.
Will today’s statement make a difference?
The home secretary says the package, and existing plans to reduce student dependents, will mean more than 300,000 people who came to the UK last year would now not be able to.
But there are still questions – like how different the Immigration salary discount list will actually be from the scrapped shortage occupation list?
It seems likely workers from abroad will still be able to undercut British workers in some sectors, which won’t please right wing MPs.
On the other side, there are of course concerns too over a workforce shortage and a need to fill jobs, not least in healthcare.
Today we saw a significant statement on legal migration, a new treaty with Rwanda could come as soon as tomorrow.
The home secretary knows he needs to sound tough to appeal to his party. This could well be his most significant week yet.
Mr Cleverly claimed these measures – as well as the previously announced measures on students – would mean that 300,000 people who entered the UK last year would not have been able to.
He also re-announced plans to raise the increase of the immigration health surcharge from £624 to £1,035.
He told MPs: “When our country voted to leave the European Union, we voted to take back control of our
“Thanks to this Conservative government, we now have a points-based immigration system
through which we control who comes to the UK.
“We prioritise the skills and talent we need to grow our economy and support our NHS – and
we have a competitive visa system for globally-mobile talent.”
He added: “Immigration policy must be fair, consistent, legal, and sustainable.”
Asked by Tory MP Damian Green how many care workers are expected to be dissuaded by the removal of family dependents from their visa, Mr Cleverly said it was not estimated that fewer people would be working in the UK health and care sector – hoping domestic supply can fill any gaps.
The home secretary told MPs the plan aims to stop “approximately 120,000 dependants” coming in on health and care visas.
Yvette Cooper, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said the statement was an admission of “years of total failure” by the government – claiming that Rishi Sunak is “crashing around all over the place” and “reversing policies he introduced”.
She pointed out that Labour had called for the scrapping of the 20% discount to shortage occupation lists previously.
Sky News understands that Labour is not planning to object to any of the measures announced today, if they require a vote in parliament.