Our new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, last night appointed Priti Patel as the new Secretary of State for the Home Department. A sizeable challenge awaits her given the issues raised by Brexit. Here we look at the possible impact on UK immigration law from the new leadership.
In his first statement to Parliament, Prime Minister Johnson promised to "look at" the economic advantages and disadvantages of an amnesty for the approximately 500,000 long-term illegal immigrants thought to be living under the radar in the UK. As the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson expressed his support for such an amnesty but whether that remains the case only time will tell.
Prime Minister Johnson will ask the Migration Advisory Committee to look closely at how the UK’s existing Points Based System of immigration could be replaced with a much touted Australian-style points based system. Such a system it is argued will achieve:
The Home Secretary, Ms Patel, has previously held one post in high office, an ill-fated stint as the International Development Secretary from which she had to resign. Given her relative low-profile in government, it is not straightforward to know what changes she will bring to UK immigration laws.
We do know that Ms Patel is from the right wing of the Conservative party, is an ardent advocate of Brexit, and is believed to favour tougher immigration control. Her article, ‘A post-Brexit immigration system can support Britain’s global ambitions’ dated 11 April 2018, provides a useful insight on what to expect:
Her predecessor, Sajid Javid, distanced himself from the aim of limiting net annual migration to the “tens of thousands” whilst in office. He also retreated from some of the excesses of the “hostile environment” and was forced to publicly apologise for the Windrush scandal.
Ms Patel emphasises a need for control on immigration numbers – it is difficult, but not impossible to imagine, a new mantra on control emerging, given the use of the infamous bus slogan during the leave campaign.
The Tier 1 Entrepreneur route was closed to new applicants earlier this year and replaced with the start-up and innovator routes. Early indications are that the innovator route, in particular, is wholly unfit for attracting entrepreneurial talent to the UK. It remains to be seen whether these routes are going to lead inward investment to the UK, given the hurdles and requirements such migrants need to overcome. We would recommend Ms Patel grapples with these routes and the defunct Tier 1 General (Highly Skilled Migrant Programme) category in order to attract the brightest and best candidates and essential investment to the UK.
Under Tier 2 migrants already need to have a job before coming to the UK. It is therefore likely that the new points-based system will reflect this and possibly be expanded to other immigration routes.
Ms Patel will also have to address the minimum salary threshold that Tier 2 migrants will need to satisfy.
Finally, we would ask the new Home Secretary to review the £18600 p.a. financial requirement under the spouse and partner routes. Notwithstanding the Home Office reasoning for arriving at this basic figure, we consider it to be arbitrary. A fairer system for migrants, albeit one that increases administration in the Home Office, would be a case by case assessment based on an old-style maintenance and accommodation requirement. This would undoubtedly help reduce the impact on low-income couples and families.
With most rights of appeal removed under Theresa May’s tenure as Home Secretary, of most concern will be how the immigration rules will be rigidly interpreted by the Home Office with little or no chance of judicial redress. As has very much been a mark of recent Conservative and Conservative-led coalition governments, visa fees, immigration skills levies and immigration health surcharge costs are only likely to increase placing a further financial burden on migrants entering the UK. At a time when our access to the European labour market looks likely to be curtailed, the totality of the above must be considered to ensure that we remain an effective destination of choice in the global war for talent.
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