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Health and education industries to be hit by new immigration rules

Written by Immigration Advice Service (IAS), 23 July 2015

On 6 April 2016 non-EU migrants who have spent more than five years working in the country will face deportation if they are not earning £35,000 per year or more. The new pay threshold will be applicable to persons wishing to stay in the UK permanently by applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain. The new government policy will affect anyone who wishes to qualify for ILR as a Tier 2 (General) Migrant or Tier 2 (Sportsperson). The policy was passed in 2012 and has up until now received little media coverage.

Theresa May has claimed that the new rules will help to reduce the number of non-European Union/EEA nationals and their dependants that are granted permanent residence each year from 60,000 to 20,000. It is part of the wider government target of a reduction in annual net migration to 'tens of thousands', down from approximately 250,000 currently entering the country yearly. She commented "Those settling here are people often on lower wages and are lower-skilled, whereas higher earners and more skilled individuals are not settling. The new rules will see us exercising control, ensuring that only the best and the brightest remain in Britain permanently."

Currently the £35,000 threshold will not apply to anyone in an occupation on the shortage occupation list, including scientists and researchers in PhD level qualifications. According to The Home Office "Exemptions will apply to occupations where there is a shortage, notably maths, chemistry and physics teachers will not be subject to the income threshold." Nurses and teachers of other subjects have, however, not made the list.

The change in policy is predicted to cause havoc in the health industry in particular. Nurses have already called for their occupation to be added to the list of exemptions and for the threshold to be reconsidered. The Royal College of Nursing criticised the Home Office, stating that "The new rules will deprive the NHS of experienced nurses when demand for them is greater than ever before."

Unfortunately though, it is not only the health industry that will be affected by the changes. The number of people entering the UK on skilled work visas rose by over 50% in 2014. Despite this figure, the teaching industry is still struggling. The Head Teachers Union share the opinion of The Royal College of Nursing, stating about the new rules "We strongly question the wisdom of deporting highly-trained staff in the midst of a teacher recruitment crisis. Far too many overseas-trained teaching personnel fall well below the £35,000 income threshold."

For decades people have had the opportunity to settle in the UK if they have built a life in the country. Conditions for indefinite leave to remain have traditionally included family situations and the amount of time already spent working in the country prior to application. The policy will be implemented in less than 9 months time and it is likely to be working families that will unexpectedly end up needing legal advice.

About the author: The Immigration Advice Service (IAS) is a team of immigration solicitors, up to date on all immigration issues and specialising in a wide range of UK visa, nationality and asylum applications. IAS has offices across the country that specialise in providing advice, assistance and representation.
Any views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of EIN