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Immigration and asylum: changes made by the Coalition Government 2010 - 2015

Published Tuesday, March 24, 2015

David Cameron described the Government’s immigration policy objective as “good immigration, not mass immigration.” The Government wanted to attract the ‘brightest and best’ migrants who were deemed most beneficial to the UK. It also wanted to reduce overall net migration levels from the hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands by the end of the 2010 - 2015 parliament, by minimising opportunities for abuse and being more selective about the criteria for entry.

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David Cameron described the Government’s immigration policy objective as “good immigration, not mass immigration.” The Government wanted to attract the ‘brightest and best’ migrants who were deemed most beneficial to the UK. It also wanted to reduce overall net migration levels from the hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands by the end of the 2010 - 2015 parliament, by minimising opportunities for abuse and being more selective about the criteria for entry.

During 2010 – 2012, the Home Office reviewed the eligibility criteria and conditions attached to the main non-European immigration categories. This led to various changes, including:

• Limiting the number of visas available to skilled workers with a job offer, and introducing stricter criteria to determine who is eligible to stay permanently in the UK.

• Closing the visa allowing highly skilled workers to come to the UK without a job offer, but creating some more selective visa provisions for high skilled/‘high value’ migrants (such as investors, entrepreneurs and those with ‘exceptional talent’).

• Amending student visa conditions in order to deter abuse, including by re-introducing visa interviews and limiting international students’ rights to work and bring family members to the UK, and subjecting education providers to more demanding requirements.

• Closing the post-study work visa and replacing it with more limited provisions.

• Introducing new family visa eligibility criteria, such as the £18,600 ‘minimum income’ requirement for partner visas, in order to encourage integration and protect public funds.

• Restricting new migrants’ entitlements to certain welfare benefits, in an attempt to address some of the perceived ‘pull factors’ for European immigration

• Legislating for the Immigration Act 2014, which was intended to make it easier to remove people refused permission to stay in the UK (by reducing the scope to appeal and simplifying the removal process) and to create a more ‘hostile environment’ for people living in the UK without a valid immigration status.

Net migration increased during the first year of the parliament, reaching 263,000 in the year ending June 2011. It then fell over the next five quarters, reaching 154,000 in the year ending September 2012. This was the lowest estimate of net migration in any twelve month period since the year ending December 1998. Compared with annual average net migration during the last parliament, net migration fell by around 93,000.

Net migration then rose again, reaching 298,000 in the year ending September 2014 (around 51,000 higher than annual average net migration during the last parliament). This is the highest estimate of net migration during the current parliament and the second highest estimate of net migration in any twelve month period, lower only than the estimate of 320,000 in the year ending June 2005.

This note focuses on action taken by the Home Office, although reforms led by other government departments, such as the changes to entitlements to civil legal aid and certain public services and benefits, have also directly affected people with immigration concerns.

Commons Briefing papers SN05829

Authors: Melanie Gower; Oliver Hawkins

Topics: Asylum, Immigration

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