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UK announces points-based visa system

The UK government has launched its long-awaited points-based immigration system which it claims will “open up the UK to the brightest and the best from around the world”.

Student visa routes will also be points-based, the government said. Photo: Flickr

Student visa routes will also be points-based

EU students will also be subject to the points-based system for study visas, as the single global system promises to “treat EU and non-EU citizens equally”.

“We’re ending free movement, taking back control of our borders and delivering on the people’s priorities”

Due to come into effect from January 2021, the proposed changes require those seeking to work in the UK earn at least £25,600 a year, as well as having specific skills and qualifications, including the ability to speak English.

Student visa routes will also be points-based, the government said.

“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 UK home secretary Priti 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.”

Students seeking to study in the UK will need to demonstrate that they have an offer from an approved educational institution, that they can support themselves financially and that they speak English, the government explained.

Earlier in 2020, a report from the Migration Advisory Committee recommended a previously proposed salary threshold of £30,000 for migrants to be reduced to “about £25,600”.

Director of Universities UK International, Vivienne Stern, said she welcomed the fact that academics and researchers are being recognised for their “high skill level and their contribution to the UK economy and society”.

“We know that the British public agrees that the UK immigration system should be designed so that scientists, academics and their support staff can work in the UK and we have recommended that holding a job offer should give university staff priority status,” Stern noted.

A UUK poll had previously shown the British public overwhelmingly believe that immigrants should be welcomed into the country on the strength of their skills.

“While we welcome the recognition that the salary threshold of £30K was too high, we still need to ensure that all university staff will be able to work in the UK… [staff] who are vital to supporting the success of our universities,” Stern added.

However, NUS president Zamzam Ibrahim said it was “clear” the government had failed to listen to concerns of students in establishing this new points-based immigration system.

“While the reinstatement of two-year post study work visas was a positive step, by introducing financial thresholds for EU students it will close off access to the UK’s higher education system to all but the richest international students,” Ibrahim said.

“All EU students must continue to have access to student finance if we are to meet the government’s own target of attracting 600,000 students to the UK by 2030.”

Ibrahim added that the salary threshold will prevent institutions from recruiting the staff they need and deny future students the opportunity to learn from those with international backgrounds.

“These plans will create further perverse outcomes for students and educational staff”

It is estimated 70% of the existing EU workforce would not meet the requirements of the skilled worker route, which “will help to bring overall numbers down in future”, according to the UK Home Office.

“This new system will also prohibit the best international students from graduating into the entrepreneurial, charitable and creative industries, and any public sector not deemed valuable by our government,” Ibrahim added.

“Already our student visas and other visa application systems are not fit for purpose; these plans will create further perverse outcomes for students and educational staff migrating to the UK alike.”

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