UK shuts borders to 'low-skilled workers'

Updated: Feb 20, 2020, 08:50 IST | Agencies | London

Unveils points-based visa system to attract the 'brightest and the best'; Oppn says proposal based on xenophobia

Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel. Pic/AFP
Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel. Pic/AFP

London: UK Home Secretary Priti Patel on Wednesday unveiled a new points-based visa system to attract the "brightest and the best" from the world, including from India, and to reduce the number of cheap and low-skilled workers coming to the country.

The new system will come into force from January 1, 2021 at the end of the transition period after the UK's exit from the European Union (EU) on January 31, which will formally end free movement of people within the economic bloc for the UK as a non-member. The new post-Brexit system, which will apply equally to the EU and non-EU countries like India, is based on assigning points for specific skills, qualifications, salaries and professions, with visas only awarded to those who gain enough points.

Student visa routes will also be points-based and be opened up to EU citizens from next year. "We're ending free movement, taking back control of our borders and delivering on the people's priorities by introducing a new UK points-based immigration system, which will bring overall migration numbers down," said Patel. "We will attract the brightest and the best from around the globe, boosting the economy and our communities, and unleash this country's full potential," Patel, in charge of the UK's visa and immigration system, said. Under the scheme, foreign workers who wanted to come to the UK would have to speak English and have the offer of a skilled job with an "approved sponsor".

They would be awarded 50 points if they fulfil these criteria. In total, immigrants would have to reach 70 points to be able to work in the UK, with points also being awarded for qualifications, the salary on offer and working in a sector with shortages.

Changes would be implemented through an immigration bill needing approval from MPs and peers to come into force. Opposition Labour Party said the "hostile environment" would make it hard to attract workers. Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine said the proposals were based on "xenophobia".

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