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Conservative Manifesto on immigration 2024

Despite immigration being only the fourth most important issue in the forthcoming election, (behind the cost of living crisis, health, and the economy in general (, it is very much a central tenet of the Conservatives offering to the voters.


Responding to record immigration figures for 2023, the Government has come out swinging. It has pledged to “Stop the boats” through the hoped-for deterrence value of the Rwanda Scheme, it has increased costs for lawful economic and family migration to unprecedented levels, and has restricted the rights of some visa holders to be accompanied to the UK by their spouse and children. In short, the manifesto sets out the steps the Conservative Government has already taken to reduce migration and promises more of the same.


Is there a problem with the figures?


We should mention at this point that the net migration figures are, we believe, based on an inaccurate method of calculation. The figures include as migrants to the UK foreign students (and where applicable) their partners and children. However, students are temporary migrants whose visas do not lead to settlement (permanent residence) in the UK. A degree level or higher student can potentially switch into a Graduate visa which allows him or her to work in the UK for a period of 2 years, but again, this does not lead to a right of settlement. Once those 2 years have expired, the erstwhile student must either find sponsorship for a Skilled Worker job, establish an innovative business and achieve recognition for such, or if they have a long-term committed relationship, switch into a family visa category. Otherwise, they must leave the UK. At this point it might be appropriate to include them in the net migration figures, but not beforehand. This simple change to the calculation would remove 446,924 students from the net migration figures and present the immigration argument in a very different light.


So what does the manifesto promise for lawful migration?


1. The cap on numbers


The manifesto argues that to “give the public confidence [that immigration numbers] will come down, a Conservative government would introduce a binding, legal cap on migration including work and family visas. This cap will be set at a level that “takes into account the costs and… benefits of migration” but which will be reduced each year and which “cannot be breached”.


2. Squeezing until the pips squeak – keeping the cost of lawful migration high


Undoubted factors in reducing the volume of lawful migration to the UK in recent months have been:


·       increasing the salary threshold for Skilled Worker visas by 48% to £38,700;

·        abolishing the 20% going rate salary discount for shortage occupations;

·       raising the minimum income for family visas to £29,000 with plans to increase it to £38,700 (although the manifesto touts that the £38,700 figure is already in play); and

·       increasing the Immigration Health Surcharge from £620 per year to £1,035.


The Government also ended the ability of almost all international students and all care workers to bring their partners and children with them to the UK – a major disincentive to come to the UK in itself.


Going forward, the Conservatives promise to raise both the Skilled Worker salary threshold and the Minimum Income Requirement for Family Visas, automatically in line with inflation. They will also increase all visa fees which, together with the very significant Immigration Health Surcharge costs, are prohibitively restrictive for many aspiring lawful migrants.


Finally, whilst stating that the Conservatives wish to “continue to attract the brightest and best” students to the UK’s universities, they also propose to increase student costs by removing the student discount to the Immigration Health Surcharge.




Businesses will struggle to fill skilled worker vacancies due to the prohibitive costs. We have already witnessed this with even giants such as HSBC and Deloitte withdrawing offers of employment to overseas workers. The premise will be that the UK should train up its home-grown workforce to fill the gaps, but it does not account for what will happen in the interim years whilst this, in theory, happens. As things stand, we expect this to hit inward investment to the UK and extreme shortages of labour in some areas, most notably, care workers and the hospitality industry.


If you’re fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to fall in love with someone from outside the UK, hope that you have an above average paid job, deep pockets and a willingness to give at least £11,000 of your money to the Home Office in visa and Immigration Health Surcharge fees.

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