The government has asked a group of independent academic experts to look again at the Migration Advisory Committee’s proposal for a £30,000 minimum salary for a UK work visa post-Brexit. It has commissioned the, er, Migration Advisory Committee.
In September 2018, the MAC published a major report on the future of immigration after the UK leaves the European Union. Assuming no special deal with the EU for its citizens, the committee recommended folding them into a modified version of the existing work visa system for non-EU migrants. The modifications to the current rules would not, however, extend to the £30,000 minimum salary requirement: the MAC said that the government should “Maintain existing salary thresholds for all migrants in Tier 2“.
The government didn’t accept this recommendation outright in publishing its immigration white paper a couple of months later. But its economic modelling does work from the premise of a £30,000 minimum, and the figure has dominated debate on the white paper ever since. Businesses are terrified of it.
After months of signalling that they are listening to employers’ concerns — and perhaps waiting for migration hard-liner Theresa May to go — ministers have now told the MAC to look at the whole salary threshold business again.
In a letter to MAC chair Alan Manning, the government says that “We also note [the MAC’s] recommendation that the existing salary thresholds should be retained and that they have previously recommended against introducing regional salary thresholds”. But it goes on to ask the MAC to review where the salary thresholds should be set, and to consider whether there should be regional salary thresholds.
Lest the committee fail to feel the ministerial nudge in the ribs, it is also asked to look at exceptions to the minimum salary requirement. Exceptions would be nothing new: research by the Migration Observatory last week found that 25% of Tier 2 (General) work visas are given to people earning below £30,000.
Professor Manning says that the committee “welcome[s] the opportunity to further develop the evidence-base it produced for the EEA Migration in the UK report”. It is due to report back by January 2020.