Nearly 40,000 Indian and other non-EU professionals face deportation from the UK along with their families unless they earn a minimum of £35,000 a year in their jobs, when a new rule intended to reduce the number of foreign workers and encourage local employment comes into effect on April 6.
The rule, announced in 2012, affects those who came to Britain in 2011 and later. Previously, Indian and other non-EU professionals could stay permanently after five years of continuous employment; there was no salary threshold.
The rule severs the link between five years of work and permanent residency.
The rule would have affected over 1,200 Indian nurses working in the National Health Service, whose annual salaries do not rise to £35,000 over five years, but they were given a reprieve in October when faced with a health crisis nursing was moved to the “shortage occupation list”.
Mumbai-origin Shwetal Shah, 21, who came to Scotland as a student in 2013, volunteered and worked in the charity sector, organised a TEDx event, and now works as a consultant for a London-based IT company, is one of many Indians affected by the new rule.
“None of my classmates got a job here. I was lucky enough to get the visa but my luck stops here because my company, like many SMEs who sponsor international talent, are too small to pay £35,000,” she told Hindustan Times.
“Getting rid of us is not the solution to migrant problems, we bring in new jobs and keep the money flowing, the strong cultural exchange between us and the locals keeps the place thriving.”
Shah said her experience was putting off her sister and some of her friends from coming to Britain to study.
Campaign group Stop 35K has asked the home office to delay implementing the rule until research calculates industry-specific pay thresholds. It said many Indians were among the non-EU professionals affected, but precise figures were unavailable.
A petition to scrap the threshold got over 100,000 signatures, leading to a parliamentary debate last week. The David Cameron government admitted the rule would make a “modest” contribution to reducing migration, but refused to scrap it. The petition estimates that 40,000 people will be affected by the rule.
“We do not believe there should be an automatic link between coming to work in the UK temporarily and staying permanently. The £35,000 threshold was set following advice from the migration advisory committee, an independent advisory body consisting of expert labour market economists,” a home office spokesman said.
“Those individuals were aware when they entered that new settlement rules would apply to them. Employers have had since 2011 to prepare for the possibility that their non-European Economic Area workers may not meet the required salary threshold to remain permanently.”
“These reforms will ensure that businesses are able to attract the skilled migrants they need, but we also want them to get far better at recruiting and training UK workers first.”