UK’s landmark Immigration Bill
On Thursday 5th March 2020, the latest Immigration Bill was unveiled to the House of Commons. This Bill is a watershed in the history of the UK’s immigration policy and relationship with the EU, by signalling an end to free movement and taking a significant step to leave the EU for the first time in forty years.
The initiation of this landmark bill will be conducted by the Minister for Future Borders and Immigration, Kevin Foster. Kevin Foster has made remarks on why the introduction of this bill is a milestone, what the bill entails and why this is such a momentous moment for the UK:
“Today we’ve taken the momentous first step to end free movement and take back control of our borders, delivering on the people’s priorities. Our firmer and fairer points-based immigration system will attract the brightest and best from around the globe, prioritising those who come to Britain based on the skills they have to offer, not on the passport they hold.”
Once the bill has been fully introduced, it will be passed within the House and this will mean that the new and revitalised points-based immigration system will commence in full swing from 1st January 2021. By utilising the latest immigration controls to decide on who can specifically enter and work in the UK, this will give the UK full governance over its borders and end free movement of citizens from EU and non-EU countries into the UK. In turn, this will reduce the UK’s net migration, ensure a stringent but fairer immigration system and increase the productivity of the UK’s economy.
The Immigration Policy Statement was recently announced by the Home Office on 19th February 2020, detailing the crucial changes to the UK’s immigration system that will commence in January 2021. The initiation of 70 points eligibility criteria introduces mandatory requirements for applicants to be eligible to enter the UK, being migrants must be able to speak English; be in a skilled occupation and have a job offer from an approved sponsor. This gives ultimate priority to those with the highest skills, talents and backgrounds in STEM subjects, such as academics, doctors and scientists to work in the UK. In turn, this abolishes the visa route for low-skilled labour to enter the UK labour market.
Those who choose to apply to the UK will contribute greatly to the economy and society and will benefit from the advantages of the new streamlined, concise and adaptable system. The tightening of UK border controls will guarantee added security and prohibit criminals from entering the UK. Further information on this points-based system will be revealed later on in the year and upon commencement, it will be continuously monitored.
What this breakthrough bill also contains are longstanding protections of rights for Irish, EEA and EU citizens. Despite an end to free movement, Irish citizens will still benefit from their unique status since the 1920s by still being able to freely enter and reside in the UK without permission to do so. EEA citizens and their family members who reside in the UK will have their rights guaranteed by the government until 31st December 2020, the end of the transition period.
EU citizens resident in the UK can still apply to settle through the EU Settlement Scheme until June 2021. Finally, EU citizens and other non-EU nationals will still be able to enter the UK without requiring a visa when visiting for a period up to six months.
Other changes as a result of this bill include changes to social security and issuance of national identity cards. Those who are looking to make the UK their permanent home must contribute to the tax system for a reasonable period of time before being eligible to apply for benefits from the UK’s benefits scheme. Additionally, the use of EEA nationality identity to travel to the UK will be phased out although the government has yet to set plans on this.
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