Downing Street should introduce a points-based system for skilled workers already with a job offer, when drawing up its post-Brexit immigration system, an influential new report has recommended.
The Migration Advisory Committee’s long-awaited review, which the government is expected to lean heavily ahead of bringing forward its immigration bill in March, said the current Tier 1 visa “does not work well”.
“The skills bar for entry is set too high, targeted at those at the very top of their field, and is too risk averse,” the report published this morning says. “The numbers admitted fall far short of the cap.”
Instead, the government should create system whereby migrants who score highly on a points system are pooled, from which there is a monthly draw, with a cap on the total number admitted each month.
The government can determine which “characteristics” are awarded points, with the MAC highlighting grasp of English, qualifications, age, whether the person studied in the UK and knowledge of STEM or creative skills as priorities.
The MAC also recommends retaining a salary threshold, expanding the type of jobs that come under the banner of eligible jobs to include “medium skill occupations”. That would result in lowering the general salary threshold by £4,400 to £25,600.
Teachers, skilled NHS workers and new entrants “would continue to benefit from lower salary thresholds”, the report said.
Other recommendations include applying the salart thresholds across the UK, rather than lowering them in some regions, with the report concluding that a separate visa would help in areas of particular weakness.
The MAC also called for an “immediate pause” in proposed increases to the settlement threshold, and a review of the requirements for the settlement.
It also calls for a review of the shortage occupation list (SOL) once the new system is in place.
If the government follows the MAC’s recommendations, the body estimates very small increases in GDP per capita and productivity, slightly improved public finances, slightly reduced pressures on the NHS, schools and social housing, “though slightly increased pressure on social care”.
Overall, the MAC said the government needed to improve the quality of data for monitoring and evaluation “as there is a danger the UK will fail to learn from past mistakes, and will not know if any new system works”.
MAC chair professor Alan Manning said: “Our recommendations are likely to reduce future growth of the UK population and economy compared to freedom of movement, by using skills and salary thresholds.
“No perfect system exists and there are unavoidable, difficult trade offs. The largest impacts will be in low-wage sectors and the government needs to be clear about its plans for lower-skilled work migration.
“The government should ensure that the mistakes of previous UK points-based systems are not repeated.”