Penningtons Solicitors LLP was invited to the Home Secretary, Theresa May's first major speech on immigration policy since the coalition Government came into power. The key points from her speech were:

Earned citizenship

She stated that the Government would not implement Labour’s earned citizenship proposals. They were however determined to stop certain temporary routes leading to settlement in the UK, but spouses would nevertheless still be allowed to settle. From 29 November the new English language test will be introduced for individuals applying for marriage visas. They will have to demonstrate a minimum standard of English.

Immigration cap

Speaking in relation to the proposed permanent cap on non-EU migrants that will be brought in from April 2011, she said that the number of migrants had to be reduced to 'sustainable levels'. A final figure on the cap had not yet been decided upon but a decision could be expected before Christmas. The Home Secretary reinforced the Prime Minister's announcement that intra-company transfers would not be included in the cap but made it clear that the route should not be abused. She also hinted that the limit should be reviewed annually and if necessary changed, to reflect evolving economic and social conditions.

Tier 1 and tier 2 routes

The Home Secretary also stated that there would be a review of both tier 1 and tier 2 routes, saying that 'operating effectively, tier 1 should only be used by investors, entrepreneurs, science researchers and people of exceptional talent. The Government's research showed 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 an employer.

The education sector

This 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 showed that students at private education colleges were most likely to end up remaining in the UK after their studies had 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 needed to be more stringent.

She concluded that 'Britain remained open for business and investors, entrepreneurs and scientists were all welcome to the UK, but migration needs to be properly controlled.'