It’s no longer news that Britain’s Conservative government has unveiled a raft of measures aimed at reducing “unprecedented” and “unsustainable” levels of legal migration to the United Kingdom (UK).
A statement issued by the Home Office on Monday said the new plan to slash migration levels and curb abuse of the immigration system will deliver the biggest-ever reduction in the country’s net migration.
Interior Secretary, James Cleverly, said his plan would result in 300,000 fewer people coming to the UK in the coming years.
Under plans set out by Cleverly, workers will need to earn at least £38,700 to obtain a visa, up from £26,200, while care workers will be barred from bringing in dependants from next April.
According to the Home Office, the revision will encourage “businesses to look to British talent first and invest in their workforce”, helping UK to deter employers from over-relying on migration, whilst bringing salaries in line with the average full-time salary for these types of jobs.
“The government will also increase the minimum income required for British citizens and those settled in the UK who want their family members to join them.
“Altogether, this reinforces that all those who want to work and live here must be able to support themselves, are contributing to the economy, and are not burdening the state,” the statement added
Immigration is set to be a key issue in nationwide elections that would be held by January 2025 at the latest, and which the main opposition Labour Party is currently favoured to win.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the number of people who arrived in Britain last year was 745,000 more than the number who left.
“Enough is enough,” the Home Secretary told parliament as he laid out his proposals, which will take effect early next year.
Although health and social care workers are exempted, they would only be prevented from bringing family dependents.
Ironically, the development is coming at a time when a recent report has revealed that 1,616 medical professionals with training from Nigeria have relocated to the United Kingdom (UK) in the last one year.
The report was released by the General Medical Council (GMC), which is the official registry of UK physicians.
Nigeria is the third-largest non-UK graduate contributor of doctors to the UK workforce, behind India and Pakistan with 2,402 and 2,372 doctors, respectively, according to the report titled, “The State of Medical Education and Practice in the UK Workforce Report 2023,” which was published on the GMC website in November 2023.
According to the report’s findings, of the 23,838 new doctors added to the register in 2022, 63 per cent were doctors with training from outside the UK, 52 per cent were International Medical Graduates (IMGs), and 10 per cent were doctors from the European Economic Area (EEA).
With 16 per cent of non-UK graduates joining the workforce in 2022, India and Pakistan were identified in the survey as the top contributors. It also noted that there has been a significant increase in the number of doctors entering the UK market with a Nigerian Primary Medical Qualification (PMQ).
In view of the new development, here are five major ways the changes in UK visa policy will affect students and professionals, including the UK itself:
1. Dearth of Students: UK is one of the top destinations for African students, particularly Nigeria, seeking tertiary education. With the policy, the number of Nigerian students gaining admission into UK tertiary institutions will reduce significantly.
2. Ruptured Family Bond: The UK healthcare sector, which relies heavily on ‘brain gain’ from countries like Nigeria, is anticipated to be significantly impacted over the inability of foreign care workers to bring their families or dependents to join them. Given the potential to rupture family bonds, this is likely to affect the productivity of health workers.
A Nigerian Lawyer based in the UK, Dele Olawale, said that there will surely be legal challenges.
“It is an inhumane immigration policy that will separate families and deprive many children of their parents,” he stated via X.
Olawale added: “How many people are earning £38,000 in the UK at the moment? It is an irrational increase that shows that Rishi Shunak, who is very rich and the newly appointed Home Secretary, are unaware of what is happening to common people in the society.
“The government announced that the employers should source for workers locally but how many British citizens are willing to work in the care industry?”
3. Impact on Local Businesses and Economy: Business owners such as travel agents have voiced concerns about these new rules, fearing detrimental impact on their earnings.
A travel consultant in Abuja, Israel Laah, said tougher visa rules will reduce the number of Nigerians getting visas, thus resulting in lower patronage.
4. Effect on Education: As the UK reviews post-study work visas as part of new measures to curb migration from January 2024, international students will not be permitted to bring family members with them while they study in the UK – unless they are studying in postgraduate research courses (e.g., research-based PhDs and research-based Master’s programmes). International students in postgraduate courses that are not designated as research-oriented will not be permitted to bring dependants.
A lecturer in Political Communication and Media at the University of Liverpool, UK, Dr Rosalynd Southern, said: “International Students are worth 10s of Billions to the UK economy. A lot of universities likely aren’t financially viable without them. But sure, keep telling them they aren’t welcome. Eventually they’ll take the hint and HE (Higher Education) will be poorer in every way.”
5. Combat Japa Syndrome: Save for reversal of policy, it will certainly discourage millions of Nigerians willing to relocate to the UK for greener pastures. In essence, it might discourage the Japa syndrome and thereby reduce brain drain.
However, speaking on the development, a Nigerian lawyer and social critic, Abdul Mahmud, described the new rules as “election gimmicky”, which won’t last.
“These new rules are an election gimmicky which won’t last long. Work-related visas in health and care, for example, significantly compound the net migration numbers; but in the constantly ageing UK population, with pressure on NHS, healthcare would always be needed for the aged and ageing. The door will be opened again,” he stated via X.