UK to unveil measures to curb legal migration


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Home secretary James Cleverly is set to unveil measures to reduce migration to the UK after official figures showed net legal migration soared to 745,000 last year.

Changes expected to be announced on Monday include significantly increasing the salary threshold for skilled worker visas from £26,200 to above £35,000, according to people briefed on the plans.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been under severe pressure on both illegal and legal migration since his flagship policy of sending “small boat” migrants to Rwanda was blocked by the Supreme Court, and official figures last month showed net legal migration had hit a record high.

A YouGov poll last week found that 41 per cent of voters said immigration was one of the three biggest issues facing the country, up from 14 per cent in 2020. Only the economy and NHS were seen as more pressing.

Cleverly will also announce a limit on the number of dependants that some foreign workers can bring with them. More than half of the immigrants entering the UK under the care worker route are dependants.

Another change will affect the so-called “shortage occupation list”, a scheme under which employers can hire overseas workers in sectors facing chronic staff shortages and pay up to 20 per cent less than the normal wage for some higher-paid occupations.

The Migration Advisory Committee, tasked with advising the government, called for the abolition of the scheme in October, warning it could drive down wages and leave workers open to exploitation.

The home secretary is also expected to announce that the government will review the student graduate route, which allows students to remain in the UK for two years after they graduate, or three years if they have completed a doctorate. 

Vivienne Stern, the head of Universities UK, which represents more than 140 higher education institutions, said axing the scheme would be an “act of economic self-harm”, adding: “International students bring a staggering £40bn into the UK economy, and constitute one of the UK’s strongest exports.”

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