A new five-point plan to reduce immigration has been announced by the UK 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 hard line on immigration.
Conservatives are angry about the latest thwarting of the Rwanda deportation scheme in the courts and net migration hitting 745,000 last year.
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”.
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 borders.
“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.
UKHospitality, a trade body for the hospitality sector, said the changes would have stopped 95% of the 8,500 visas granted for chefs and managers last year – which would “worsen the shortages hospitality businesses are facing”. Sky News