New rules raise salary threshold and call for immigrants’ kin to meet English language requirements.
New visa regulations that will impact Indian workers in the U.K. as well as their families are set to come into effect on Thursday, as part of the government’s tightening of its immigration regime, but which critics argue will be damaging to the country’s efforts to build relations with India.
Changes impacting a number of areas — including salary thresholds for those on a Tier 2 visa (the most common category for non-EU workers), and English language requirements for family members of non-EU migrants were announced by the government earlier this year on the advice of the Migration Advisory Committee, an independent public body that advises the government.
In order to be sponsored, experienced workers will need to earn a salary of at least £25,000 in all professions barring a few (nurses, radiographers, paramedics, secondary school teachers in mathematics, the sciences, and Mandarin will be exempt until July 2019). The salary threshold is set to rise even higher next year to £30,000 by April. The minimum salary threshold for a Tier 2 migrant was £20,800.
“This is a very reactionary and unthoughtful move by the government and won’t help build the relationship between India and Britain,” said Virendra Sharma, the Labour MP for Ealing Southall. He noted that the minimum salary required of foreign workers was rarely one that locally-trained workers would be able to earn. “Indirectly the government is saying we don’t want you here,” he said.
The government is also increasing the minimum salary for short-term staff using the intra-company transfer route — used by companies including the Indian IT sector to bring key personnel from abroad — to £30,000, and closing the ICT skills transfer sub-category.
“It is an economically illiterate move,” said Lord Karan Bilimoria, a cross bench member of the House of Lords, and Chair and founder of Cobra Beer, who noted the timing of the announcement — made just before Prime Minister Theresa May visited India earlier this month.
“They are bringing in a non-tariff barrier to one of India’s most significant exports — the IT industry, which has contributed hugely to improving IT infrastructure across the public sector and brought in massive added value to the British economy,” he noted.
Pointing to the 3.5 million high-skilled graduates a year produced by India in areas where British businesses faced “severe skills shortages,” a spokesperson for Nasscom said: “It is crucial our fast growing and high value tech sectors can rely upon an effective immigration policy that attracts high skilled workers and minimizes barriers to the flow of talented people between our two countries.”
The government will also require partners and parents of immigrants applying to extend their stay after 2.5 years to meet certain English language requirements. Harsev Bains of the Indian Workers Association in the UK expressed concerns about the move — pointing out the high level of English proficiency that would be required for family members. “This will mostly affect women from India and Pakistan between the ages 20 and 35. It seems to be targeted at a particular community.”