Prime Minister David Cameron has today outlined plans for a cross-Government immigration system that seeks to favour those who work hard to get on in life.
The Prime Minister will said that immigration continues to have huge benefits to our nation and we can be proud of how open and diverse we are. He explained that he believes a sensible debate will help ensure that everyone who comes here pays their way and gives something back.
The speech outlined Government plans to do this by:
- stopping our benefits system from being such a “soft touch”;
- making entitlement to our key public services something migrants earn - not an automatic right; and
- bringing the full force of government together to crack down on illegal working.
Mr Cameron said:
While I have always believed in the benefits of immigration I have also always believed that immigration has to be properly controlled.
As I have long argued, under the last government this simply wasn’t the case. Immigration was far too high and badly out of control. Net migration needs to come down radically from hundreds of thousands a year to just tens of thousands.
And as we bring net migration down so we must also make sure that Britain continues to benefit from it. That means ensuring that those who do come here are the brightest and the best the people we really need with the skills and entrepreneurial talent to create the British jobs and growth that will help us to win in the global race.
And it also means ensuring that the system is fair so that we support the aspirations of hard working people who want to get on in life. This is about building that aspiration nation I have been talking about.
New measures set out by the Prime Minister include:
Cutting access to benefits for non-UK nationals after 6 months
The current Home Office Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations state that someone who enters the UK in order to seek employment means they have a ‘right to reside’ as a job seeker. This means they can claim Job Seekers Allowance and other benefits.
To ensure people cannot claim benefits indefinitely, in early 2014 we will create a statutory presumption that after 6 months an EEA national can no longer retain their status as a job seeker or retained worker and continue to claim benefits, unless they can demonstrate they have actively sought work throughout that period and have a genuine chance of finding work.
Currently some immigrants are exploiting a loophole which allows them to claim contributory benefits based on their National Insurance contributions despite not having the right to work in the UK. This can happen when someone has worked in the UK and paid NI but then overstayed their visa. Closing this loophole will prevent payment of contributory benefits to those with no right to work in the UK at the point of their claim.
We will strengthen the test people have to pass to see if they are eligible to claim income related benefits - the Habitual Residence Test. There will be an increase in the number and stronger range and depth of questions asked.
Stopping ‘something for nothing’ public services
The Government will introduce an expectation on councils to introduce a local residency test in determining who should qualify for social housing. This would mean someone would have to live in an area for say 2 or 5 years before they could even go on the waiting list.
This will stop someone from turning up and immediately gaining access to social housing. To ensure UK nationals are protected when they are moving for genuine reasons - for example for work or because of family breakdown - local authorities will have the ability to set exceptions (e.g. in relation to work mobility, armed services personnel, for people escaping domestic violence etc).
Stopping health tourism
Government wants to stop the expectation that our health service is free to the entire world and we will take new steps to ensure the NHS can claim back money that is owed for NHS treatment provided to those not entitled to it. We will look to introduce stricter charging or a requirement for non-EEA temporary migrants to have private health insurance in order to access NHS care. Countries like the US and Australia already expect people to have insurance - we want to do the same. This will ensure we can reclaim costs when people are treated by the NHS.
Crack down on illegal immigration
Key enforcement organisations will be brought together to form more local and national taskforces to target hotspots of high employment and housing abuse and there will be tougher action on rogue businesses who employ illegal workers by doubling maximum penalties to £20,000. Biometric residence permits will make it easier to identify illegal immigrants.
Government will introduce a new legal requirement for landlords to check the migration status of new tenants, so they are not renting to an illegal immigrant. Landlords/letting agents will be expected to demand suitable evidence from tenants (passport/valid visa/Biometric Residence Permit) and to keep a record. For UK nationals proving their status will be straightforward - simply showing a passport, driving licence or birth certificate in most cases.
Rogue landlords who flout the rules and fail to take sufficient checks will face tough consequences, which could include a fine.