UK Government announce public consultation on reforms to visas

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Migrants going to the UK to work on temporary visas will no longer be able to apply for settlement under proposals announced by the UK Government on 9 June.

The UK government is implementing reforms to their immigration system which will reduce the level of immigration to sustainable levels. The announcement is the next step in this process.

Launching a public consultation on reforms to the work routes leading to settlement, UK Immigration Minister Damian Green set out plans to re-classify visas as either ‘temporary’ or ‘permanent’ and introduce stricter criteria for those who want to stay in the UK.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said:

“The proposals I am making today are aimed at breaking the link between temporary and permanent migration.

“Settlement has become almost automatic for those who choose to stay. This needs to change. The immigration system has got to be made to work properly.

“We want the brightest and best workers to come to the UK, make a strong contribution to our economy while they are here, and then return home.”

Under the current system, many workers are allowed to apply to stay in the UK permanently. In 2010, 84,000 people who entered the UK for employment were granted settlement. This compares to less than 10,000 who qualified for employment related settlement in 1997.

The UK government has already implemented new settlement requirements for skilled workers entering the UK under Tiers 1 and 2 of the Points Based System, which require applicants to demonstrate English-language proficiency, continue to meet the salary requirements and to pass a new criminality test.

Key proposals under consideration in the 12 week consultation are as follows:

  • re-branding Tier 2 (the skilled worker route) as temporary, ending the assumption that settlement will be available for those who enter on this route;
  • allowing certain categories of Tier 2 migrant, for example those earning over £150,000 or occupations of a specific economic or social value to the UK, to retain an automatic route to settlement;
  • creating a new category into which, after three years in the UK, the most exceptional Tier 2 migrants may switch and go on to apply for settlement;
  • allowing Tier 2 migrants who do not switch into a settlement route to stay for a maximum of five years with the expectation that they and any dependants will leave at the end of that time;
  • introducing an English language requirement for adult dependants of Tier 2 migrants applying to switch into a route to settlement;
  • restricting the maximum period of leave for Tier 5 Temporary Workers to 12 months; and
  • closing or reforming routes for overseas domestic workers.

The Immigration Minister added:

“A small number of exceptional migrants will be able to stay permanently but for the majority, coming here to work will not lead automatically to settlement in the UK.”

The Government has committed to reforming all routes of entry to the UK in order to bring immigration levels under control. The settlement, Tier 5 and overseas domestic worker reforms will work alongside the annual limit, the new student visa reforms and changes to the family route which will be consulted on later this year.