Theresa May revealed plans for the UK’s post-Brexit immigration policy at the Conservative conference, and said that EU countries will not be treated any differently from non-EU ones.
The details come after the Migration Advisory Committee released a report of recommendations for a new immigration policy, including prioritising highly-skilled workers and looking to Canada, which operates on a points system, as an example of an “open, welcoming approach to migration but no free movement agreement with any other country”.
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A white paper with full details of the new system will be published in autumn, with an Immigration Bill due next year.
EU citizens already living in the UK can apply for permanent residence online, no matter the outcome of the Brexit deal.
Here are the key elements of the government’s immigration plans.
Freedom of movement between EU countries will ‘end’
“When we leave [the EU] we will bring in a new immigration system that ends freedom of movement once and for all. For the first time in decades, it will be this country that controls and chooses who we want to come here,” the Prime Minister said.
EU and non-EU countries will be treated the same
Residents of European countries will not be prioritised over those from outside of Europe.
At present, EU citizens do not need a visa to live or work in the UK, but this will change.
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There are separate entry schemes planned for short-stay business visitors and long-term settlers, with the latter having to meet a minimum salary threshold and, similarly to the US’s employment visa system, ensure the job role they wish to take up cannot be filled by a UK worker.
High-skilled workers can bring their immediate family only if their employer sponsors them - another similarity with the US system.
More electronic passport gates
Theresa May at the Conservative party conference. Image: Getty
Currently, EU citizens can pass through automated gates at airports, while non-EU citizens have to queue for passport control.
The government is looking at the possibility of electronic gates for short-stay business trips for visitors from all “low-risk” countries.
Highly-skilled workers will be prioritised
“It will be a skills based system where it is workers’ skills that matter, not where they come from,” said May. “It will be a system that looks across the globe and attracts the people with the skills we need.
“The new skills based system will make sure low-skilled immigration is brought down and set the UK on the path to reduce immigration to sustainable levels, as we promised. At the same time we are training up British people for the skilled jobs of the future.”
US-like system for pre-visit checks
In yet another similarity to the US’s immigration system, visitors will have to be vetted prior to arriving in the UK.
Travellers to the United States must obtain an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) by answering security and criminal record questions online - they then receive a formal document allowing them entry to US.
The government says the UK’s system would be similar.
No caps on student visas
Student visas are a separate system to working visas, and are issued on the basis of “academic ability, the ability to speak English and the ability of students to support themselves financially”.