London: Britain’s new visa system, which toughens entry requirements for non-English speaking migrants but makes it easier for skilled workers, has been welcomed as “great news” for Australians.
The strict new rules, aimed at ending the private sector’s reliance on “cheap labour”, are intended to come into effect next year when Britain formally leaves the EU and the free movement system.
Under the Conservatives’ long-promised “point-based” immigration system, which it claims to have modelled on Australia’s scheme, Australians and other non-EU citizens will be treated equally.
Under the EU’s free movement rules, all Europeans, including unskilled and non-English speaking migrants from EU countries, have been able to live and work in the UK while Australians have faced tougher barriers because of the government’s commitment to lowering overall migration.
People who want to work in the UK will need to earn 70 points to qualify for a visa.
They will need to prove they have a job offer from a sponsor, that the job is skilled and that they speak English to a certain level.
The job must pay a minimum of £25,600 ($49,689) which is below the old threshold of £30,000 which is roughly equal to the UK’s average salary of £30,353 ($58,957) according to Britain’s Office for National Statistics. Exceptions will be made for people applying to fill shortages, for example in the health sector as well as for those who have PhDs.
It is estimated the system would disqualify around 70 per cent of the existing EU workforce.
Elizabeth Ames from the Britain-Australia Society said the level playing field was good news for Australians hoping to forge a career in the UK.
“Today’s announcement of the new British visa system is great news for Australians looking to live and work in the United Kingdom,” Ames said.
“By creating a level playing field for all applicants worldwide, it ensures that talented Australians will be able to come and contribute to the United Kingdom, further cementing the already strong links between our two countries.”
In Britain, the changes were strongly criticised as too tough and harmful to the economy.
The Home Secretary Priti Patel conceded that even her own mother, from Uganda, would not have been welcome under the changes.
“This isn’t about my background or my parents,” she said when confronted with the proposition on London talkback radio station LBC.
“This is a very different system to what has gone on in the past and don’t forget this is a points-based system based on the labour market.”
“We are not changing our approach to refugees and asylum seekers, which is very different to a points-based system for employment,” Patel said.
The Home Office told business to adapt to the new system and stop relying on “cheap, low-skilled labour”.
Carolyn Fairbairn from the CBI said the private sector was resilient but the changes posed a challenge.
“This can be adapted to overtime, businesses are very resilient and they will adapt but the fact that this new system is coming in at the end of this year…very challenging,” Fairbairn told Britain’s Sky News.