London, Feb 9 (PTI) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and UK Home Secretary Priti Patel have finalised plans for a new post-Brexit points-based visa and immigration system, which is expected to see the UK allowing greater numbers of skilled professionals from around the world, including India, to live and work in the country.
At a meeting earlier this week, they reportedly accepted the UK Migration Advisory Committee's (MAC) recommendation to lower the minimum salary threshold requirement for such professionals from 30,000 pounds to 25,600 pounds, with additional points being scored for skill levels, job offers and English language abilities.
The details of the new system are expected to be formally unveiled by Patel next Friday, following an expected Cabinet reshuffle by Johnson on Thursday.
'The Prime Minister wants to deliver a system which demonstrates the UK is open and welcoming to the top talent from across the world, which will help the economy and country thrive,' 'The Sunday Times' quoted a government source as saying.
At the same time, we must deliver on what this country voted for — by decreasing low-skilled migration and breaking away from a reliance on cheap labour to focus on boosting skills, technology and innovation that will truly benefit the UK for the long term,' the source said.
The so-called Australian-style points-based system will effectively curb unskilled migrants' access to the UK from January 1, 2021, when the free movement of people from within the European Union (EU) will end under a pre-agreed transition period after Britain formally left the economic bloc on January 31.
UK Home Office figures suggest the new rules will mean a reduction in unskilled EU migrants of about 90,000 a year. Under the new post-Brexit system, there will be an expected rise in the number of skilled migrants coming to the UK from next year, currently 65,000 a year. The proportion of workers coming from within the EU and those from outside is predicted to change, with higher numbers from outside Europe.
Indians lead the category of UK visas granted to skilled professionals from outside the EU, with 56,241 such Tier 2 visas granted over the previous year. That figure is expected to register a further hike following the post-Brexit changes.
According to report, the score awarded for salary will be 'tradeable' on a sliding scale, with people on 23,000 pounds still able to earn points. Those who earn less than 25,600 pounds will score double for working in a sector where there is a skills shortage. Those with an 'outstanding' educational background would also gain points and holding a PhD in a subject relevant to your job would be worth the same as speaking good English.
A letter outlining the details of the policy is to be sent to Cabinet ministers over the weekend, with its approval is expected to take place by Johnson's new reshuffled top team by Friday.
A second phase of reforms will follow later next year, at the end of the Brexit transition period, when the points-based system will be further refined.
Positive and negative points are likely to be awarded for age, higher scores for those educated in the UK and those choosing to work and be based outside London.
In phase two, sector-specific short-term visas could also be introduced if there are shortages of low-skilled workers in the care or construction sectors as a result of the end to free movement of people from Europe.
In its research-based report released last month, the independent MAC panel of experts had cautioned the UK government against implementing a full-fledged Australian-style points-based system. Instead, it proposed a more hybrid system where a minimum salary threshold would apply for applicants coming to the UK with a job offer, and a points-based system for those coming to the UK without a pre-arranged job.
The government is not obliged to accept all the recommendations but the MAC report is likely to form the broad basis of the new visa regime to be put in place for the UK as a non-member of the EU. PTI AK MRJ MRJ