Britain unveils tough new immigration rules
Britain said Tuesday it would cut the number of non-EU migrants allowed to work in the country by a fifth to a maximum of 21,700 a year, as it seeks to radically slash immigration levels.
Home Secretary Theresa May also announced plans to tighten student and marriage visas, as the government seeks to cut migration from the current level of hundreds of thousands of arrivals a year, to tens of thousands.
"This is a comprehensive package that will help us to meet our goal of reducing net migration at the same time as attracting the brightest and the best and those with the skills our country needs," May told lawmakers.
Amid concerns over a shortage of jobs and the social impact of the new arrivals, ministers introduced a temporary cap on non-European Union immigrants earlier this year but had been consulting on a permanent solution.
Under the proposals outlined Tuesday, which will take effect in April 2011, the number of skilled migrants allowed in without a job offer will be slashed to just 1,000 a year, May told parliament's lower House of Commons.
However, the cap on skilled migrants with job offers will be increased to 20,700 -- a total of 21,700, a reduction of a fifth on last year's figures.
This does not include intra-company transfers, but May said any employees wanting to come to work at the British branch of their firm for more than a year must earn at least 40,000 pounds (63,000 dollars, 47,000 euros).
Meanwhile a new category of visas will be introduced for "wealth creators" and "people of exceptional talent", amid criticism that some of the brightest academics, scientists and artists will be stopped from coming to Britain.
Students, who represent almost two-thirds of non-EU migrants coming to Britain each year, will also be subject to much tougher conditions.
Ministers will consult on restricting entry to those studying degree-level courses, May said, warning that the intentions of "too many" of those applying for lower level courses was to come to Britain to earn money.
May also signalled a tougher approach to those hoping to marry British nationals and settle here, saying that from next week, all those applying for marriage visas must demonstrate "a minimum standard of English".
© 2010 AFP