Home Secretary James Cleverly unveiled the government’s plan to curb legal migration.
The UK government has unveiled plans it promised would slash net migration after levels soared to a record high.
Home Secretary James Cleverly announced a five-point plan to curb immigration, which he said was “far too high”. The changes included hiking the minimum salary needed for skilled overseas workers from £26,200 to £38,700.
Mr Cleverly claimed 300,000 people who were eligible to come to the UK last year would not be able to in the future. In a statement to MPs, the home secretary said migration to the UK “needs to come down” and there had been “abuse” of health and care visas for years. “Enough is enough,” Mr Cleverly said. “Immigration policy must be fair, legal, and sustainable.”
The sharp increase represents a huge political challenge for Mr Sunak and the Conservatives, who have repeatedly promised to reduce net migration since winning power in 2010, and “take back control” of the UK’s borders since the Brexit vote. Increase the annual charge foreign workers pay to use the NHS from £624 to £1,035. Raise the minimum income for family visas to £38,700 from £26,200, from next spring. Ask the government’s migration adviser to review the graduate visa route to “prevent abuse”. The home secretary told MPs the changes would take effect in the spring next.
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said the “cruel plans spell total disaster for the NHS and social care”. “Migrant workers were encouraged to come here because both sectors are critically short of staff. Hospitals and care homes simply couldn’t function without them,” she said. The plans were welcomed by some Conservative MPs, with former cabinet minister Simon Clarke calling the changes “serious” and “credible” steps. But Mr Cleverly’s predecessor as home secretary, Suella Braverman, was less impressed.
She said the package was “too late and the government can go further” on salary requirements and “shortening the graduate route”.
Mrs Braverman claimed she had put forward similar proposals six times when she was home secretary “but the delay has reduced their impact”. She has lambasted the government’s record on immigration since she was sacked as home secretary by Mr Sunak last month.
Care sector staffing
The latest statistics show the challenge ministers will face in reducing migration into the health sector, which has come to rely heavily on hiring workers from abroad.
The government said in the year ending September 2023, 101,000 visas were issued to care workers. An estimated 120,000 visas were granted to the family dependants of those care workers, the government said. The care sector is facing staffing shortages and providers have resisted curbs on their ability to hire foreign workers.
The government’s migration advisers have previously said “persistent underfunding” of local councils, which funds most adult social care, is the most important factor in the staffing crisis.
Mr Cleverly acknowledged some care workers might be deterred from coming to the UK because they would not be able to bring families under the new rules. But he said he believed there would still be care workers who would be willing to work in the UK.