Prime Minister David Cameron has outlined plans to further toughen immigration rules at a speech in London.
Mr Cameron focused on tackling forced or bogus marriages, making changes to the UK citizenship test and introducing a minimum income level for individuals whose families are joining them in the UK.
Describing forced and bogus marriages as 'little more than slavery', the Prime Minister unveiled plans to consult on making it illegal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to force someone to marry against their will. This suggestion was put forward earlier in the year but rejected by the Home Office on the grounds that cases would be hard to prove and victims may be reluctant to come forward. The Government's position is that the Home Secretary, Theresa May, will now work alongside support groups to ensure victims are sufficiently protected if the law does come into force.
On the matter of relatives coming to the UK to join their families here, Mr Cameron said that it was important that these individuals could support themselves financially and not become dependent on welfare. A minimum income level for the person bringing relatives into the country is therefore likely to be set. In addition, the Government is considering asking immigrants to pay a bond or surety before entry to ensure financial independence. Again, this is something that has previously been explored and ruled out.
Those coming into the UK will also be expected to understand and speak English well and the UK citizenship test will now focus more strongly on British history and culture with questions on Winston Churchill, the Magna Carta and the English Civil War being introduced.
The initial version of the speech circulated to the media contained a requirement that businesses could be forced to disclose the numbers of migrant workers whom they employed. This was removed by the time the Prime Minister spoke.
All in all it is clear from the speech that the Government intends to press forward with its aim of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands by the end of parliament through a number of methods and we expect to see the pace of immigration legislation changes continue. Indeed, as the Prime Minister was speaking, a further set of immigration rules was announced which includes measures to tackle NHS debtors. Please click here for more information.
For a transcript of the full speech, please click here