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Expert panel calls for cut in salary cap for skilled worker visas to UK

Expert panel calls for cut in salary cap for skilled worker visas to UK
Highlights

The Committee says that the changes it has recommended will very slightly increase GDP per capita, productivity and improve public finances.

London: An independent expert panel tasked by the UK government to assess how a post-Brexit immigration system would work on Tuesday called for a drop in the salary cap imposed on professionals, majority of them from India, applying for a skilled worker visa.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) called for the current salary threshold of 30,000 pounds on such workers, a large chunk of whom are Indians, to be cut down to 25,600 pounds to bring it in line with pay levels in specific occupations.

"Indian nationals accounted for 39 per cent alone, with Australia and the United States both accounting for 9 per cent each, Pakistan 7 per cent and South Africa, Nigeria and New Zealand 5 per cent each, notes the MAC report, in reference to workers accessing the Tier 1 (General) high-skilled category of UK visas so far.

"The ambition behind programmes like the HSMP (now-defunct highly-skilled migrant programme) is often to recruit, global talent. Yet the successful applicants tend to be drawn from a relatively small number of countries - 42 per cent from India, 9.9 per cent from Pakistan, 8.8 per cent from Australia, 6.8 per cent from Nigeria and 4.5 per cent from New Zealand over 70 per cent of applicants came from just five countries," it adds, as a criticism of the UK's current visa regime.

In its research-based report, which is expected to form the blueprint for a post-Brexit visa and immigration system once the European Union (EU) freedom of movement rules cease to apply to the UK as a non-member, MAC also cautions Prime Minister Boris Johnson against implementing a full-fledged Australian-style points-based system as he has repeatedly pledged.

Instead, it proposes a more hybrid system where a minimum salary threshold would apply for applicants coming to the UK with a job offer, and a points-based system for those coming to the UK without a pre-arranged job.

"The current packaging as a PBS (points-based system) is, forgive the pun, pointless and could be eliminated, notes Professor Alan Manning, chair of the committee, as he warns of reduced economic growth under a future full-fledged points-based system.

"There are trade-offs and no perfect system exists The government should ensure that the mistakes of previous UK points-based systems are not repeated, he said.

The Committee says that the changes it has recommended will very slightly increase GDP per capita, productivity and improve public finances.

Its proposed changes are also expected to reduce pressures on the state-funded National Health Service (NHS), schools and on social housing, though they will increase pressure on social care.

The government is not obliged to accept all the recommendations but the MAC report is likely to form the basis of the new visa regime to be put in place for once the UK has formally left the EU later this week.

“The government will introduce a firmer and fairer points-based immigration system from 2021 that welcomes talent from around the world while reducing low-skilled migrants and bringing overall numbers down.

We will carefully consider the report before setting out further details on the new system, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

A new Australian-style immigration system had been a central election promise during last month's General Election, which handed Boris Johnson a thumping majority.

The system awards points to applicants based on their various qualifications including English language skills.

While dropping predecessor Theresa May's pledge to bring immigration down to the tens of thousands, Johnson holds on to the Conservative Party's wider commitment to curb the numbers coming into the country an issue seen as a dominating factor in the UK's vote in favour of Brexit in June 2016.

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