May: Skills-based migration system ‘will end free movement’

2 Oct 18

Prime minister Theresa May today set out plans to end free movement “once and for all” by introducing a single immigration scheme for both EU and non-EU nationals.

Hailed as the “biggest shake up in decades”, the new system will prioritise skills, seeking to curb low-skilled immigration.

May said: “It will be a system that looks across the globe and attracts the people with the skills we need.

“Crucially it will be fair to ordinary working people. For too long people have felt they have been ignored on immigration and that politicians have not taken their concerns seriously enough.”

She added that the government would also seek to train up UK nationals to get them ready for the skilled jobs of the future.

The government is considering plans that would allow tourists and short-term business visitors from low-risk countries to enter the country swiftly with an electronic visa check.

Security and criminal record checks would be carried out electronically ahead of the visit, similar to the system that operates in the US.

Those wanting to live and work in the UK long term will have to apply via the new skills-based system and meet a minimum salary threshold.

Immediate family members will only be allowed to accompany high-skilled workers if they are sponsored by future employers.

However, there will be no cap on student visas, which will continue to be granted on the basis of academic ability, English language competency and ability to financially support themselves.

The announcement follows proposals from the Migration Advisory Committee, which suggested if the government was to introduce a level playing field between EU nationals and non-EU migrants then it should prioritise skills.

“With free movement there can be no guarantee that migration is in the interests of UK residents,” it said.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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