David Cameron said it will be harder for people to come to work in Britain from outside the European Union, as part of his effort to cut net levels of immigration by more than half.
The prime minister used his weekly question-and-answer session in Parliament to announce that Home Secretary Theresa May has asked the government’s Migration Advisory Committee to recommend ways to tighten visa requirements. Areas the panel will look at include increasing the minimum salary an overseas worker will have to earn from 20,800 pounds ($32,250) a year, restricting the areas in which employers can argue there is a skills shortage, and increasing visa charges.
Cameron has never come close to meeting a pledge, made before he first won office in 2010 and repeated in last month’s election campaign, to cut net annual immigration below 100,000. EU free-movement rules mean he only has control over migrants from outside the bloc, which has led to crackdowns on skilled migrants from beyond Europe.
“In the past it has been frankly too easy for some businesses to bring in workers from overseas rather than to take the long-term decision to train our workforce here at home,” the premier told the House of Commons in London Wednesday. “We need to do more to change that, and that means reducing the need for migrant labor, and that is part of our plan.”
The panel has been asked to look at Tier 2 visas, which cover skilled workers. It will deliver most of its report by the end of the year, with the government seeking recommendations for raising the salary thresholds by the end of July so changes can be made to immigration rules in the fall.
Other areas the committee will examine include whether the dependents of those on a Tier 2 visa should be allowed to work, and tightening rules on intra-company transfers, where staff are moved between countries by the same employer.
Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said the plans risked damaging growth.
“Proposals to further increase the cost of visas is essentially a tax on employing people from abroad,” Walker said in an e-mailed statement. “This seems particularly odd given how dependent the U.K. economy is on international skills. The prime minister is absolutely right to focus on up-skilling the domestic workforce, but there’s no quick fix and it could appear misguided to risk harming the economy today in the hope of seeing results a decade down the line.”