Tough new curbs on the number of highly skilled foreign workers coming to Britain were promised by Jacqui Smith yesterday amid fears that tens of thousands of new graduates will struggle to find jobs this summer.
The Home Secretary announced that she was “raising the bar” over the qualifications expected of non-EU professionals allowed into Britain to look for work.
The Independent disclosed three weeks ago that the move was being discussed by ministers in advance of a record 400,000 UK-born students graduating this summer. Ms Smith signalled that the Cabinet had backed the plan despite worries that it could lead to skills shortages.
The proposal, which ministers acknowledge may be seen as a “British jobs for British graduates” move, applies to the so-called tier one workers under the recently introduced points system for immigration.
It currently enables highly skilled people from outside the EU, such as scientists, IT specialists, lawyers, financial service workers and entrepreneurs, to enter Britain without a job. But from April they will have to hold at least a master’s, rather than bachelor’s degree, and a previous salary of at least £20,000 to qualify for a visa.
The Home Office estimates that it will reduce the numbers coming in from 26,000 to 14,000. Ms Smith told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday: “Where the most skilled people come into the country and don’t need to have a job, we [will] really make sure those are the most skilled.”
She said it was “economically right that we are more selective about those who come into the country”.
Ms Smith also indicated that the Government was considering imposing new restrictions on the families of non-EU migrant workers entering the country. She has asked the Migration Advisory Committee to assess their impact on the economy.