The post-Brexit salary threshold for migrants is arbitrarily high

19 Mar 19

The government needs to improve its post-Brexit plans for attracting talent to the UK, says think-tank Bright Blue’s director Ryan Shorthouse.

NHS nurses

 

If post-Brexit Britain is to prosper, it is vital it remains a magnet for international talent.

And research consistently shows that the majority of the public do not want reductions in the number of skilled migrants.

Sadly, government policies in recent years have starved businesses, the engines of our economy, of the high-skilled employees they need.

Since the end of 2017, demand from employers for certificates of sponsorship for skilled migrants has outstripped the supply of available Tier 2 visas, which has been capped by the government at 20,700 visas a year.  

Thankfully, at least, the government is scrapping this particular cap and enabling those in medium-skilled jobs to access these type of visas too. However, a minimum salary threshold will apply.

The exact figure is currently subject to consultation, but the Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendation of a £30,000 minimum salary threshold is unnecessarily and arbitrarily high.


'Salary thresholds are a blunt instrument for determining eligibility for working migrants. They take a static view of salaries, failing to consider changes over time and the enormous contribution that migrants could make in the long-term.'


Salary thresholds are a blunt instrument for determining eligibility for working migrants. They take a static view of salaries, failing to consider changes over time and the enormous contribution that migrants could make in the long-term.

The proposed £30,000 threshold strangles the pipeline of talented younger people at the start of their careers, especially in key economic sectors such as the NHS and the creative industries.

The application of salary thresholds as a way of determining the eligibility of migrants is markedly inconsistent. Family visas, for example, require a minimum salary threshold of £18,600 to be able to bring some family members to the UK.

The £18,600 is considered by the Migration Advisory Committee to be the point at which a childless migrant will be a net contributor rather than a consumer of public finances. In this context, the Migration Advisory Committee’s proposed £30,000 threshold for Tier 2 visas seems oddly high.

The reality is that the threshold for when a migrant becomes a net contributor rather than a consumer of public finances will vary depending on a number of factors including age, number of children and housing tenure. A single salary threshold which applies to all Tier 2 visa-seeking migrants, and is not even equalized, fails to account for these differences.

What’s more, most migrants from outside the EU do not even have recourse to public funds, including child benefit and universal credit, as they have limited leave to remain.

The UK’s immigration system must ensure that migrants who come to the UK are contributors to public funds, but relying on salary thresholds alone is a short-sighted and ill-considered solution, especially for Tier 2 visa-holders who are likely to be large contributors to this country in the long term.

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