Home » New British Immigration Rules: Is UK still an attractive place to live and work? – Investing Abroad News

New British Immigration Rules: Is UK still an attractive place to live and work? – Investing Abroad News

By Yash Dubal

In election cycles, information is often used selectively and politicised. To be properly informed, caution is advised. One should always look behind the headlines, the slogans and the electioneering, as often the truth is hiding.

This is the case in the UK where immigration appears to be the key issue that concerns voters. Last year, net migration in the UK peaked at a record level. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of asylum seekers entered the country illegally, often on small, inflatable boats, crossing the English Channel from France.

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The ruling Conservative Party promised ‘crackdowns’ and introduced a range of measures to reduce the number of legal migrants and deter and penalise illegal aliens. Government ministers repeatedly justified these restrictions because voters want to ‘take back control’ of the border, they said.

The truth, however, is more nuanced. While it is true that core Conservative voters are most concerned about immigration as a political issue, the same cannot be said for much of the country. Conservative voters tend to be older, wealthy and do not live in the UK’s multicultural cities.

But a poll of the general population conducted by research organisation YouGov last December found that while 41% of people said immigration was an important issue, only a fifth (20%) of those surveyed said it was the most important issue facing the UK. The top issue was the economy, which 30% of people cited as their main concern.

In another poll conducted a month earlier more people (43%) thought immigration has had a positive impact on Britain than those (37%) who felt its impact has been negative. However, this negative outlook had increased from 29% in 2022.

As the figures show, the UK is not the inhospitable place recent headlines suggest.

And the figures relating to number of migrants are also nuanced. It is true that reductions are being made.

Those applying to work in the UK in the health and care sectors can no longer bring dependents, for example. Neither can most students. It is harder for people in middle skilled professions such as retail and catering to get UK work visas now.

However, there is still no cap on the number of Skilled Worker visas being issued and although the salary threshold for Skilled Worker visas has risen considerably, there is still a demand for workers in many sectors, meaning employers are still keen to recruit from overseas and will most likely be paying higher wages than previously for workers with the right skills, particularly in IT, construction, and engineering.

Indeed, the more selective nature of the current British immigration system and the higher salary threshold ensures that the prospects for those who successfully gain a UK work visa will have a better standard of living and better prospects within a jobs market that remains globally competitive.

Even the projections that suggest the number of visas issued will drop significantly do not tell the whole story. The UK’s record immigration in 2023 was driven by many factors including visa schemes for those fleeing war in Ukraine and those fleeing repressive new laws in Hong Kong.

These were one-time schemes. Most British work visas were handed to those coming to work in Britain’s health and care system. Apart from the new rules banning dependents of such visa holders, there are no other new restrictions. The salary threshold increase does not apply to this category of worker.

It is no surprise then that recent projections for net migration in 2024 were increased. It expects net migration of 315,000 in 2028, which is far lower than last year’s 670,000 but still 70,000 higher than the 245,000 previously assumed.

Britain remains an attractive place to live and work. There is intense competition among Western nations for skilled workers and yet immigration remains a controversial issue not only in the UK but also in the US, in Canada, and in Australia. All are taking steps to reform their immigration systems. But in the UK particularly, when you look behind the headlines the evidence shows that there are still plenty of opportunities for those who wish to make a new life for themselves in the UK.

(The author is the Director & a Senior Immigration Associate at A Y & J Solicitors, London, United Kingdom and the views expressed are his own)