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UK to tighten permanent residency rules in 2016

From 2016 non-EU nationals will have to earn at least £35,000 per annum to apply for permanent residency in the UK, it was confirmed this week. The measure, which is part of new immigration rules announced in February, is designed to “break the link between coming to the UK to work and staying forever”, but could further damage the UK’s appeal as a study destination say observers.

A £35,000 salary threshold to apply for permanent residency will come into effect in 2016

Currently those who find work after study may apply for permanent residence after being in the UK for a continuous period of five years on a Tier 2 visa. They must prove they are paid at the appropriate rate, which varies from job to job (in some cases exceeding £35k) but can be as low as £23,449 as a higher education teaching professional or £24,000 as a journalist.

Bia Carneiro, a Brazilian who graduated from the London School of Economics in 2011 and now works in the charity sector, will be affected by the new threshold when she applies for permanent residency around 2018.

“I have entered a new job market here and need time to build a career that will take me to that salary level”

“From my perspective the raise is not fair. I have been working here since achieving a masters degree at a top institution. However experienced I may be in my home country, I have entered a new job market here and need time to build a career that will take me to that salary level,” she told The PIE News.

An American journalist who also graduated in 2011 agreed: “It puts a lot of pressure on a person to work her way up. It’s a tall ask of international students, especially after they’re already required to pay double what domestic students pay in tuition fees.”

There are concessions to the rule. Migrants doing skills shortage jobs and scientists and researchers in PhD-level roles will be exempt, while investors, entrepreneurs and exceptionally talented migrants may continue to apply through the Tier 1 visa.

Those on Tier 2 visas will also be able to apply to extend their temporary stay from five to six years.

In addition, the UK will still offer more generous settlement conditions than some rivals. In the US, green cards for foreign skilled workers are capped at just 41,455 annually and processing backlogs stand at around six years.

The UK will also still offer more generous settlement conditions than some rivals

In Germany (the fourth most popular study destination) migrants must earn a salary of around £36,000 to work in the country (compared to £20,000 in the UK), although they may apply for permanent residence after just three years.

Explaining plans for the threshold in February, former immigration minister Damian Green said: “Settlement in the UK is a privilege. We are sweeping aside the idea that everyone who comes here to work can settle, and instead reserving this important right only for the brightest and best.”

The government is reforming all routes of entry to the UK to reduce net migration from “the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands”. It has made moves to stop abuse of the student visa system and closed the post study-work visa altogether – a move that has already harmed enrolments from India, the UK’s second largest student market.

Said Carneiro: “I was glad to have had the option of staying once a job opportunity came up, and had many classmates whose decision was based on what post-study opportunities were available.

“It seems to me that the current government is really just trying to scapegoat the economic crisis on immigration.”

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