UK Immigration policy – what next after Labour’s landslide victory?

9th July 2024

Immigration is always a hot topic and never more so than in the run up to and just after a general election. What is or could be in store for the UK following the general election?

Measures to tackle Illegal Migration and Small Boat crossings

Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has announced plans to strength the UK’s Border Security and tackle criminal smuggling gangs making money out of small boat crossings.

A new Border Security Command will be established and rapid recruitment for a leader to head up the new organisation has begun. The new Border Security Commander will provide strategic direction and draw together the work of the National Crime Agency, intelligence agencies, police and Immigration Enforcement and Border Force to better protect the borders and pursue the smuggling gangs that facilitate small boat crossings.

Net Migration Figures for Legal Migration

Labour pledged to reduce net migration, aiming to lower the annual figures to a “couple of hundred thousand”. They have not set a target, anticipating that their policies will achieve this reduction. The Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that net migration will stabilize around 350,000 annually over the next five years taking into account the impact of the Conservatives’ immigration policies, without further intervention.

The fiscal impact of 350,000 annual net migration is projected to reduce public sector borrowing by £7.4 billion by 2028-2029 which would help to improve public sector finances. A significant proportion of the net migration figure are international students. The Migration Advisory Committee has noted that their tuition fees help expand course offerings, make up financial losses on domestic students and research. They also participate as a short-term labour supply for businesses, both as students and those on graduate visas.

Skilled Worker visas

Labour do not intend to cap any immigration routes but state that they intend to link immigration and skills policy more closely. They aim to address shortages in construction, IT and engineering by reforming the apprenticeship levy to skill and train resident workers.

They also intend to:

  • 1. Require sponsors in key sectors, along with adult care sponsors to adhere to a government determined workforce plan and fair pay agreement.
  • 2. Remove occupations from the Immigration Salary List (formerly the Shortage Occupation List) where a sector is shown not to be engaging with its workforce plan.
  • 3. Increase visa penalties for employers who do not comply with minimum wage and other employment laws.
  • 4. Stop individual companies from sponsoring workers if they are considered not to be doing enough to carry out workforce training.
  • 5. Strengthen the Migration Advisory Committee and link it to skills bodies UK-wide, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Industrial Strategy Council.

Health and Care Visas

Labour do not intend to reverse the current prohibition on Carers and Senior Carers being able to bring family members to the UK. Their plan is to establish a new body to enforce employment rights and to instruct it to investigate the exploitation of migrant workers in the social care sector.

Creative Workers, Youth Mobility and Seasonal Workers

Labour may negotiate new arrangements with the EU for touring performers to ease post-Brexit administrative burdens. They have no plan to negotiate a youth mobility scheme with the EU. Labour may introduce legislation and enforcement measures to tackle exploitation of seasonal workers under this route.

Family Routes

Labour have broadly supported the increase to the minimum income requirement which was increased from £18,600 per year to £29,000 per year from 11 March 2024.

Student and Graduate routes

There have been no specific policy announcements about these routes.

EU Settlement Scheme

There have been ongoing concerns regarding the administration of the EU Settlement Scheme. Scheme applicants were the first group of migrants to be granted digital immigration status (the decision having been made to phase out physical immigration documents) and there have been reported problems for Pre-Settled and Settled Status holders in proving their status in the UK and their right to rent and work and accessing Government services such as the NHS. The new Government will need to get to grips with the various problems.

Immigration Fees

There have been no announcements yet regarding fees which were increased significantly by the last Government.

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