The UK will introduce English tests for foreign nationals seeking to marry Britons and, as expected, low-skilled workers from outside EU will be barred.
The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, this week announced further restrictive measures on entering the UK, including a new English test for foreigners seeking to marry a Briton and settle in the UK.
Smith and her Immigration Minister, Liam Byrne, confirmed that under the government’s new points-based system low skilled migrants from outside the EU would not be permitted entry for the foreseeable future.
Although around 12,000 unskilled migrants from non-EU countries in Africa, America and Asia came to work in the UK last year, schemes for such workers have gradually been phased out over the last couple of years.
“The arguments we are currently making in support of migration do not necessarily empathise with the real and direct experience that communities across the country are now feeling.”
“The Points Based System will build on a package of measures already being introduced to deliver a more secure border. These include: new electronic checks to count people in and out of the UK and clamp down on illegal immigration; fingerprinting of visa applicants around the world before they are allowed to enter Britain; and the introduction of ID cards for foreign nationals.
“Migration brings great social and economic benefits to this country. But people expect it to be managed robustly and in support of Britain‘s national interests. That’s why we’re launching the countdown to our new Points Based System which will begin in less than 100 days.”
She said she would “work with Britain’s European partners” to see if EU nationals with a criminal record could be deported more easily, further confirming that one hand is effectively tied behind her back when it comes to EU migration, even for criminals.
With the Conservatives snapping at their heels on the politically sensitive area of immigration, the government has no option but to target non EU migrants mainly from poorer nations in Asia and Africa.
The shadow Immigration Minister, Damian Green, complained that the measures still stopped short of putting an annual cap on the number of people allowed to come and work in Britain.
“We are not running immigration policy on the exclusive interests of the UK business community” Liam Byrne
In a consultation paper, the government asks whether those seeking to marry a Briton should be required to take a written or oral test.
It also asks whether failure to pass an English language test should lead to outright refusal of entry to the UK, or whether a temporary visa should be granted to allow the applicant to take language lessons.
The consultation document is available on the Border and Immigration Agency website.
The package of immigration measures also features previously announced moves to crack down on forced marriages, and increase the minimum age at which someone could sponsor a spouse or be brought to Britain as a spouse from 18 to 21.
Byrne also revealed that ministers want powers to ban anyone with an unspent jail sentence of 30 months or more from being able to take UK nationality.
The ‘Smith and Byrne’ duo used this week’s announcements to highlight government plans to introduce a points-based system for non-EU migrants, due to come into force in the spring.
Responding to fears that the ban on unskilled workers might harm industry, Byrne said:
“We are not running immigration policy on the exclusive interests of the UK business community, we are running it in Britain‘s national interest.”
“The Locals are insufficiently trained-up” Professor David Metcalf
A further indication of where the government is going with its immigration policy came last week from remarks made by Professor David Metcalf, the Chair of the newly formed Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which held its inaugural meeting on Friday 7 December.
The MAC consists of a panel of experts which will advise the government on “where the UK labour market needs migration and where it does not”.
In a report by The Times of India, Professor Metcalf, said that UK hands out work permits to up to 100,000 skilled foreigners each year just because the locals are “insufficiently trained-up”.
In remarks that were interpreted by commentators as hugely significant, he said: “Why do you need people from abroad? You need them because presently the national labour is insufficiently trained-up for some of these occupations. As we improve the human capital of the British people – experience, training, education – it is quite plausible we would need fewer people coming in.”
So there you have it, businesses don’t need overseas staff at all. According to Professor Metcalf, all employers need to do to solve all their staffing problems is to get the locals “trained-up”.
If you need immigration advice and would like a free consultation please email me at:
For the latest immigration news see