The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has given her first major speech on immigration policy since the coalition came into force. Speaking in relation to the proposed permanent cap on non-EU migrants that would be brought in from April 2011, she said that the number of migrants had to be reduced to 'sustainable levels'. A final figure has not yet been decided upon but a decision is expected before Christmas. The Home Secretary reinforced the Prime Minister's announcement last week that intra-company transfers would not be included in the cap. She also hinted that the limit should be reviewed annually and if necessary changed, to reflect evolving economic and social conditions.
May also promised to get tougher on immigration abuse in order to 'restore confidence in a well-managed system that can bring substantial benefits'. She stated that the points based system alone was not sufficient to tackle the problem of abuse and that every aspect of the immigration system must be managed closely. A new English language test is to be introduced from 29 November, with individuals applying for marriage visas having to demonstrate a minimum standard of English. The Government hopes that this measure, and others in the pipeline, will help fight against the number of sham marriages.
The review of tier 1 and the current problems related to tier 2 were key issues in the speech. 'Operating effectively, tier 1 should only be used by investors, entrepreneurs and people of exceptional talent; the genuinely highly skilled. Our research shows that many people entering the UK through tier 1 or tier 2 routes are earning low salaries and are not highly skilled'. As a result, the Government is looking to raise the minimum skill levels for tier 2 to ensure that those entering the UK through this route are doing a job relevant to their skills and that they are receiving sponsorship from their employer.
The education sector was also identified as an area for concern and the Home Secretary stressed that studying in the UK should not give individuals an automatic right to settle here indefinitely. Home Office data shows that students at private education colleges are most likely to end up remaining in the UK after their studies have been completed. Ministers will be looking at entry criteria, English language requirements and the standard and level of courses on offer to determine whether rules need to be more stringent.