£35,000 pay threshold plan to cut migrants

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The number of migrant workers settling in the UK would be cut by two-thirds if a minimum salary threshold of £35,000 was brought in, the Government’s advisers said yesterday.

The Migration Advisory Committee (Mac) said the move would cut the number of migrants and their dependants granted settlement in the UK on the basis of work from 60,000 to 20,000.

Minimum annual pay was the best way to decide if a worker should be allowed to settle in the UK after five years, the advisers said.

But even without a minimum salary threshold, the number of migrant workers from outside the EU settling in the UK would be expected to halve to around 30,000, due to changes which are already being brought in, the advisers said.

Professor David Metcalf, the Mac chairman, said: “We believe that pay is the right criteria. First of all it’s a good reflection of skill; it’s also the case that pay is what’s used presently at entry; and it’s also got a considerable advantage in that it’s simple.”

He added that £35,000 was the typical salary for those occupations which were skilled to graduate level, the level needed for non-EU migrants to come to the UK to work.

But he warned that some nurses may fail to qualify for settlement under the pay threshold, adding that the Government may want to consider making an exception for nurses and other key public sector jobs.

Making an exception, and justifying it, would be the best way of still allowing nurses to settle in the UK – rather than introducing any points system where public sector workers are given more credit, he said. Chefs are also expected to fall short of the recommended pay limit, which the Mac says should be set between £31,000 and £49,000.

Prof Metcalf said the Government had already “ratcheted up the skill level”, introduced a pay threshold, tightened up the English language requirement, and brought in an annual cap on migrant workers coming to the UK from outside the EU, so doing nothing further was “worthy of consideration”.