An Indian holding a PhD in a STEM subject (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and fluent in English, with a salary offer of £25,600 or above in a high skill-cum-shortage area, is likely to be immediately granted a five-year work visa by Britain under a “Points-based Immigration System”, which is scheduled to come into effect on January 1 next year.
The qualification would obtain for an individual 110 points, where 70 points is enough for a person to be eligible to apply for residence in the United Kingdom.
Making a statement on the subject in the House of Commons, British Home Secretary Priti Patel said “it will enable the UK to become a magnet for the brightest and the best”. She will in due course introduce a Bill to render into law the proposed system. Given the size of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government’s majority, the legislation should have no difficulty in entering the statute.
However, what is seen as good news for high-skilled Indians — together with a reformed “Global Talent” route for leading scientists, researchers, and mathematicians — could be expensive at approval stage. The London-based Institute for Government (IfG) think-tank estimates a work visa under the new scheme would cost £1,220 per person or £900 if he or she is filling a vacancy in a shortage sector.
A family of five with a five-year work visa for one individual would, according to the IfG, have to pay £21,299 before it enters Britain. For the primary applicant the charge would be £3,220, with spouse £6,500. This would include a £400 health surcharge per person, since the migrants — not even doctors and nurses in the National Health Service (NHS) — would not be entitled to free health care as nationals and residents of the UK are. The price tag is said to be double the cost of settling in Australia. Canada charges about £710 and Germany around £760.
The general salary threshold, though, is being reduced from the current £30,000 per annum to £25,600 per annum. But remuneration offers as low as £20,480 will be considered to address inadequate manpower in critical areas, including the NHS.
The Australia-type system will also govern international and therefore Indian students. If they can demonstrate they have admission in principle at a recognised educational institution, speak English, and are able to support themselves during their studies, they will secure the necessary points and thereby qualify for a study visa. Besides, after they graduate, they will also be permitted to stay in the UK for a further two years to work or look for work.
Interestingly, the education threshold will be reduced to A-level (or High Secondary School Certificate) from degree level. But competence in English will be a key requirement, advantageously fetching 10 points in the application process.
Responding to Patel’s statement, opposition Labour party spokesperson Bell Ribeiro-Addy described the salary threshold as “damaging”. She added: “There is no such thing as low-skilled work; just low-paid work.”
She went on to allege the need to speak good English was “dog-whistle politics”. She asked: “Do the government also intend to block the recruitment of scientists, mathematicians and IT specialists, for example, if they have less-than-perfect English?”
She also sought assurances that the work visas would not be tied to specific employers. And pointed out: “Otherwise, the Government will be creating conditions of bonded employment, where the threat of dismissal implies the threat of deportation.”
Patel did not specifically reassure Ribeiro-Addy. Instead, in a feisty exchange she said: “The honourable lady was obviously conflating several issues with a new immigration system that, as I have clearly outlined, is a phased approach that focuses on skills, not on aspects of family reunion, benefits, welfare or access to public funds.”
In short, on the face of it, the scheme appears to be more attractive to a single person or a young couple than a family.