Debate set in UK parliament over new pay threshold for certain visa streams

by Ray Clancy on February 17, 2016

New measures due to take effect in the UK which mean that non-European Union citizens earning under £35,000 a year will only be allowed to stay in the country for six years is being challenged.

Under the new rules due to come into force in April a pay threshold will be introduced for people in certain skilled occupations and graduates from outside the EU and they will be limited to a visa for just six years.

It has been pointed out that this will affect tens of thousands of people from countries like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States including those who are nurses, and teachers who earn under this amount.


Critics say this is discriminatory and that it is going to affect 40,000 people who have been living and working in the UK for the last five years. They launched a petition which has received over 100,000 signatures which means that the issue will now be debated in the UK Parliament.

“This ridiculous measure is only going to affect 40,000 people who have already been living and working in the UK for 5 years, contributing to our culture and economy. It will drive more workers from the NHS and people from their families. This empty gesture will barely affect the immigration statistics. It’s a waste of time, money and lives,” said a campaign spokesman.

“This is the first time the UK has discriminated against low earners. £35,000 is an unreasonably high threshold. The UK will lose thousands of skilled workers,” he added.

Official correspondence has also been sent from foreign organisations. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed that it has made representations to the British government on the changes.

The Australian submission noted that the restriction has the potential to adversely affect the commercial interests of both countries’ businesses and investors, and consequently the economic interests of both Australia and the UK, and could impact on people to people links.

A spokesman for the UK Home Office said that the £35,000 threshold was announced in 2012 following public consultation and it applies only to workers in graduate occupations but exemptions exist for workers at PhD-level or in a recognised shortage.

“The Government believes that the UK can benefit from migration but not uncontrolled migration. We are delivering a more selective immigration system that works in the national interest. Uncontrolled, mass immigration makes it difficult to maintain social cohesion, puts pressure on public services and can drive down wages for people on low incomes. In the past it has been too easy for employers to bring in workers from overseas, rather than to take the long term decision to train our workforce here at home,” he explained.

“The £35,000 threshold for settlement applications forms part of our overall strategy and is intended to make a modest contribution to the Government’s target of reducing net migration to sustainable levels. It applies to those holding leave under Tier 2, the skilled work category. This category is reserved for those working in graduate level jobs only,” he pointed out.

“Those workers who cannot meet the threshold can extend their stay in Tier 2 up to a maximum of six years, and can apply to switch into any other immigration routes for which they are eligible,” he added.

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