Welsh migration rules to be considered by expert panel

Image source, Reuters

The Home Office is calling on an expert body to assess whether post-Brexit migration rules should be different in Wales.

It comes as part of a UK government consultation on a minimum £30,000 salary for skilled migrants seeking five-year visas.

A review by a leading economist warned the salary threshold would hit Wales harder than the rest of the UK.

The UK is due to leave the EU on 31 October.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid MP asked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to "review the evidence on salary thresholds".

In December 2018, the UK government published its much-delayed plans for a new post-Brexit immigration system, including a 12 month consultation on the £30,000 threshold.

The Welsh Government commissioned Prof Jonathan Portes to consider the salary threshold's possible impact on Wales.

The economics professor at King's College London's report called for the Welsh Government and businesses to press for a lower threshold, claiming £20,000 would "mitigate modestly" the potential impact.

He said "quite a few European migrants who are doing what you might call semi-skilled or medium-skilled jobs", such as manufacturing, would be caught by the £30,000 threshold.

In a letter sent to the MAC on Monday, Sajid Javid MP asked the government advisers to consider whether the "salary thresholds are applicable to the whole of the United Kingdom or whether there is a need for greater regional variation."

The home secretary added: "These proposals are the biggest change to our immigration system in a generation, so it's right that we consider all of the evidence before finalising them.

"It's crucial the new immigration system works in the best interests of the whole of the UK."

Image caption,
Currently all immigration rules are centralised - there is no such thing as a Welsh immigration policy

The advisory committee is expected to produce its report by January 2020, whilst the new post-Brexit immigration system is set to be phased in from 2021.

It has already suggested the creation of a Wales-specific list of particular jobs aimed at plugging gaps in the labour market.

Workers applying for jobs which are on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) are effectively allowed to jump the immigration queue.

The Welsh Government's Counsel General has already cautiously welcomed the idea of a Welsh SOL but said it "is not the answer" if the salary threshold is maintained.

Jeremy Miles told the assembly in early June: "We must have a fair migration policy in place, one which protects EU citizens who have made Wales their home and which ensures that our future labour market needs are met. Any salary threshold should be well below £30,000.

"We need to ensure that Wales is still seen as an attractive place to live and work, and that we are still a welcoming nation," he added.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "A £30,000 threshold would not work for Wales and would hit our economy hard. Nurses, junior doctors, vets and a range of workers we need for our public services and industry will find it much more difficult and less attractive to come to Wales under these proposals.

"The immigration system should help our economy and people, not stifle it and limit its potential."

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