At the Conservative Party Conference on Wednesday, the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, committed the government to further reform of the UK’s immigration system and to a reduction of net migration to “sustainable levels”. She said:
“I believe immigration has brought many benefits to the nation. It has enhanced our economy, our society and our culture. That is why I want to reduce net migration while continuing to ensure that we attract the brightest and the best.
Because it is only by reducing the numbers back down to sustainable levels that we can change the tide of public opinion, so once again immigration is something we can all welcome.“
Most significantly for business, she announced a further consultation on controls to the work and study routes. In particular, the government will examine whether a further tightening of the Resident Labour Market Test for Tier 2 (General) should be implemented.
She described the Resident Labour Market Test as a “tick box exercise, allowing some firms to get away with not training local people. We won’t win in the world if we don’t do more to upskill our own workforce.”
The key elements of her announcement are:
1. A review of the Resident Labour Market Test to enforce a genuine attempt to recruit locally before sponsoring foreign workers.
2. Further changes to the Tier 4 Student system requiring overseas students to prove the quality of their degree, their ability to undertake the course and their future employability. In addition, the government will consider restricting sponsor licences to specific universities.
3. The deportation of EU criminals.
4. The introduction of a new “Controlling Migration Fund” which will be used to ease pressure on public services in areas that have seen high immigration. The fund will be £140 million and will include provisions to stop irregular immigration, rough sleeping and tackling rogue landlords. It will provide for greater access to English language courses for legal migrants who require assistance.
5. From December 2016, the landlord provisions of the Immigration Act 2016 will come into force. Landlords who rent out property to illegal immigrants will now commit a criminal offence that could incur a prison sentence.
6. From December 2016 taxi drivers will be subject to immigration checks in order to gain a licence to drive a minicab.
The Home Secretary confirmed her view that net migration at sustainable levels means tens of thousands. This is in line with the approach adopted by Theresa May during her time in the Home Office.
Amber Rudd emphasised that leaving the EU is just one part of the strategy of reducing migration flows. The government will look at all sources of immigration in order to meet its aims.
We will continue to consult with and advise all of our clients in respect of the immigration policy consequences of Brexit and the net migration target with a view to ensuring that the needs of business are communicated clearly to government as it considers further changes to our laws.