Cap on Immigration of High-Skilled Workers Should be Scrapped, Says UK Panel

The UK Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report recommends giving greater access for higher-skilled workers from non-EU countries and easing restrictions on Tier-2 work visas, which are popular among Indian professionals.  


A key report of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) commissioned by the British government has suggested that the cap on the number of high-skilled migrants to the United Kingdom should be scrapped. It, however, recommended keeping the minimum earning requirement for foreign workers at the current level of £30,000 per year.  

The report, released on Sept.18, has also recommended easing restrictions on tier 2 work visas, which are popular among Indian professionals. 

The report was commissioned by the UK government ahead of Brexit. It has said that visa rules should be kept same for both European Union (EU) workers and migrants from other countries, and that no preference should be given to citizens of EU countries.  

While recommending the removal of the limit of 20,700 high-skilled migrants from non-EU countries such as India, the committee said: “We recommend that the cap is abolished — it creates uncertainty among employers and it makes little sense for a migrant to be perceived as of value one day and not the next which is what inevitably happens when the cap binds.”

It also advised an end to immigration of low-skilled immigrants from the European Union post Brexit. EU citizens currently are free to live and work in the United Kingdom, while immigrants from non-EU countries like India have to go through the strict visa process to enter Britain.

“If – and this is not a MAC recommendation – immigration is not to be part of the negotiations with the EU and the UK is deciding its future migration system in isolation, we recommend moving to a system in which all migration is managed with no preferential access to EU citizens,” the report, titled “EEA (European Economic Area) Migration in the UK,” said, PTI reported.

“If the UK decides on its new immigration system in isolation from the negotiations about the future relationship with the EU, we do not see compelling reasons to offer a different set of rules to EEA and non-EEA citizens,” the report said, according to the news agency. “A migrant’s impact depends on factors such as their skills, employment, age and use of public services, and not fundamentally on their nationality.”

The recommendation drew criticism from various business organizations representing housebuilders, haulers and the hospitality sector, a large part of which comprises the Indian restaurant industry. 

According to the Guardian, business leaders have voiced concerns against these recommendations on account of potential shortage in workforce post Brexit, which will leave devastating effect on the industries. They also termed the recommendation of minimum annual income of £30,000 for tier-2 visas as “ignorant and elitist.”  

Richard Burnett, the chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, told the publication: “We need an immigration policy across all skill levels. It is about what our businesses need. The idea that only high-skilled immigration should be allowed is both ignorant and elitist.” 

The committee, however, justified its preference for high skilled workers and threshold of £30,000 earning by saying that “higher-skilled workers tend to have higher earnings and so make a more positive contribution to the public finances.”  

Many others say that MAC suggestions will give a boost to the Theresa May government’s determination to bring down the immigration numbers. 

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that the government is only concerned with its migration target and doesn’t think about the harm it will do to the people.  

Khan, who is of Pakistani origin, said, “If the Govt responds to the Migration Advisory Committee report by reducing immigration at the expense of growth it will damage the U.K. for years. The government is only motivated by an ideological migration target, regardless of the cost to real people.” 

Wire service Reuters quoted a spokeswomen for the Home Office as saying, “We will carefully consider the Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendations before setting out further detail on the U.K.’s future immigration system.”  

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