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Key questions around Cleverly’s immigration shake-up

Net migration in 2022 reached a record-high of 725,000 (Rick Findler/PA)
Net migration in 2022 reached a record-high of 725,000 (Rick Findler/PA)

Home Secretary James Cleverly has set out a five-point plan aimed at bringing down net migration, which hit a record high in 2022.

Here are some of the key questions:

– What is net migration?

Put simply, it’s the amount of people coming in – immigrants – minus the emigrants leaving the UK. The 2019 Tory manifesto committed to reducing “overall numbers”. The net migration figure for that year was around 219,000.

In 2022 net migration hit a record 745,000, although the figure for the year to June 2023 is estimated to be lower at 672,000.

It is all a far cry from the pledge made by then Tory leader David Cameron to bring it down to  the “tens of thousands”.

POLITICS Migrants

– How does the points-based immigration system work?

Generally, an applicant will require 70 points on the immigration system to get a visa. Fifty of those would come from having a job offer above a minimum skill level and speaking English.

The other 20 would come from exceeding the salary threshold or the “going rate” for the job, whichever is higher.

Even if that salary threshold is not met, extra points can be earned for having a relevant science, technology, engineering or maths PhD.

And for shortage occupations, the salary threshold is lowered because of the need to address a lack of workers.

– What has the Home Secretary announced?

From spring 2024, a skilled worker from overseas will be required to earn £38,700 to qualify for a visa, up from £26,200.

Overseas care workers will be stopped from bringing dependants.

The current shortage occupation list regime will be scrapped, meaning employers will no longer be able to fill labour gaps by offering 20% below the going rate for jobs.

The minimum income required for a migrant seeking to bring a spouse or dependant to the UK on a family visa will also increase to £38,700, up from £18,600.

Finally, the Migration Advisory Committee will review the graduate immigration route to prevent abuse.

The Government is also raising the immigration health surcharge by 66% from £624 to £1,035 to help ease the burden on the NHS.

– What about unskilled labour?

The system already means that – except for seasonal agricultural workers and care workers whose qualifications would not meet the definition of “skilled” – there are no employer-sponsored visas for workers taking up low-wage or low-skilled jobs in the UK.

– What has driven the rise in recent years and where are people coming from?

Post-pandemic, migration patterns and behaviours have been shifting “considerably”, according to the Office for National Statistics.

More students are arriving and staying for longer. Study was the largest contributor to non-EU immigration in the year ending June 2023, accounting for 39%, followed by work (33% up from 23% the previous year).

More family members, known as dependants, of people with work and study visas have arrived too, the statistics body added.

Most people arriving in the year ending June 2023 were non-EU nationals (968,000), followed by EU (129,000) and British (84,000).

The ONS said more people are now coming from the likes of China, India and Nigeria.

People arriving on humanitarian routes fell from 19% to 9% in the year to June 2023, with most being Ukrainians and British Nationals (Overseas) from Hong Kong.

– What impact will Mr Cleverly’s measures have?

The Government claims the five-point plan, together with previously announced measures to curb the ability of overseas students to bring dependants with them, will reduce net migration by 300,000.

The student measures will reduce the number by around 140,000, the restriction on social care workers’ dependants will cut it by 100,000, raising the salary threshold will bring the numbers down by 50,000 and the family visa earnings hike will cut numbers by the low tens of thousands.