London, Feb 2: In a move bound to create ripples, Britain today announced a shift of focus in its immigration policy which now seeks to welcome only those Indian and other non-EU immigrants “who add to the quality of life” barring others with a low income potential.
Two proposals outlined in a major speech by Immigration Minister Damian Green are likely to affect Indian professionals and migrants.
The government has already announced its intention to scrap the Post-Study Work visa for non-EU students, which has been popular among Indians.
Non-EU professionals whose annual income at the end of mandatory five years work and stay in the UK is less than 31,000 pounds will need to return to their countries of origin.
Only those with an income higher than this will be allowed to stay here permanently.
Secondly, British citizens and residents who seek to marry foreign spouses need to show an annual income of around 25,000 pounds before they can bring their spouses here. The objective is to stop such foreign spouses seeking financial support from the state.
The speech has already come under fire for allegedly focussing on “wealthy immigrants”, and preventing young Britons with origins in the Indian sub-continent with limited income from marrying spouses from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other countries.
In the speech at Police Exchange think-tank, Green said he wanted to build a “national consensus” around immigration, adding: “Importing economic dependency on the state is unacceptable.
“Bringing people to this country who can play no role in the life of this country is equally unacceptable”. He said he wanted anyone moving to the UK to join a British spouse “to be able to integrate and be independent”, which was why a requirement to speak English was being introduced.
He said he was also proposing to set a minimum income level for any sponsor seeking to bring in a foreign spouse.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said placing an income level before bringing foreign spouses would be “hammer blow to the human rights of cross border partners and their families”.
Chief executive Habib Rahman said: “They've already been hit with an age minimum (although we defeated that), language requirements and ever increasing visa fees. Now they face what is likely to be an unreasonably high income threshold. One might argue that this government has it in for poor people who fall in love with anyone who's not resident in the UK”.
Speaking to the BBC before delivering the speech, Green said he wanted “to be much more intelligently selective about who we let come here”, and that anyone individual seeking permanent settlement should be able to command an annual salary of between 31,000 pounds and 49,000 pounds.
He said: “We need to know that you're not going to be living off benefits from day one of arriving here. “We want people either to fill skill gaps we may have... [or] we want to know that they are being offered jobs that are genuinely at a skill level”.
Green added: “Similarly with students, we want to make sure that they are genuine student studying genuine courses at a genuine institution”.