- 16 December 2019
The biggest Conservative majority since 1987 has landed Boris Johnson back in the Prime Minister’s seat. In this article, we look at the key Conservative policy announcements for immigration for the coming years.
The ‘Australian-style’ Points Based Immigration System
The use of this particular term never gets old for the Conservatives, despite the existence of a UK Point-Based System since 2008. We do however now expect a major overhaul inspired by the ‘Australian’ system.
This means a unified system post-Brexit for both EU and non-EU nationals. The Conservative mantra for this system is a system for ‘the best and the brightest’. The logic behind this is to address the anticipated skills shortage of workers considering the significant reduction to EU migration.
Key changes to this system will include:
- A unified Immigration system for EEA and non-EEA nationals
- A widening of the Sponsorship Licence scheme
- The Global Talent Visa: An expansion of the Exceptional Talent Scheme
- The Graduate Immigration Scheme: A reintroduction of the Post-Study Work visa
- A reduction of permanent low-skilled migration to the UK
- The introduction of the NHS visa
- Dismantling the Home Office for Immigration
The first immigration news to emerge post-election is a proposal to create a ‘brand-new’ immigration system, which is to be separate from the Home Office. The Department for borders and immigration will focus on improving security and operating the visa system post-Brexit.
Whilst the formal proposal on how this new department will work are yet to be set out, this announcement does have echoes from the post. Previously, visas and immigration (whilst within the Home Office) were run by the UK Borders Agency (UKBA), an arms-length body in charge of immigration. The UKBA was shut down in 2013 over questions over its efficiency.
- Scrapping the net-immigration target
Whilst the Conservatives still maintain they will reduce net migration to the UK, they do not intend on adhering to the net-migration targets set by previous Conservative governments.
- Immigration Amnesty
In July 2019, Boris Johnson announced considering an amnesty for immigrants who do not have a lawful basis of remaining in the UK. He announced that those who have stayed in the UK for at least 15 years and have ‘played by the rules’ Mr Johnson has long been a proponent of this policy and mentioned this during his time as Mayor of London in 2009.
There is very limited information on how and when this policy would be implemented, and whether it continues to have the support of the newly elected MPs.
Key Conservative policy announcements for immigration for the coming years.
- Increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge
The Conservative Party Manifesto states that they intend on increasing the Immigration Health Surcharge to cost level, which they estimate to be £800 per year. We understand that this will be increased to £625 next year with further increases anticipated in future years.
Note: Immigration Health Surcharge was announced in 2015 at £200 per year per applicant. This meant an average migrant paid £600 for a 3-year visa. This was increased to £400 per year in 2019.
- MAC reports and then some
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is set to receive an expansion of their current powers, which would allow it to set quotas for certain visa sectors. They would also be expected to publish an annual report which would advise on how to lower immigration levels and addressing skill shortages in the labour market.
Earlier this year, they were commissioned to review salary thresholds and the possible implementation of an Australian style points-based immigration system in the UK. We expect this report to be published in January 2020.
The findings of this report are likely to form a key part of future immigration policy for the current Government.
- Digital Immigration Status for 2022
The Home Office has already moved digital for most application, and the Conservative party manifesto states that the intent is to move all immigration status digital by 2022. A taster of this was seen with the EU Settlement Scheme where no ‘paper’ document was issued to EU nationals, and instead the status can be viewed digitally.
A key challenge to this proposal is the integrity of the system itself, and how this will address safeguarding issues for vulnerable migrants. We expect further detail of this in 2020.
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.
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