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Immigration and the Budget


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There is some good news, some bad news and some not-exactly-surprising news in today’s Budget.

The good news comes in the form of more liberal rules for scientists, researchers and international students who want to work and settle in the UK:

4.19 International talent – To support its ambitions on innovation and R&D, the government is encouraging the best and the brightest international scientific and research talent to work in the UK. The government will: change immigration rules to enable world-leading scientists and researchers endorsed under the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route to apply for settlement 47 after three years; make it quicker for highly-skilled students to apply to work in the UK after finishing their degrees; and reduce red tape in hiring international researchers and members of established research teams, by relaxing the labour market test and allowing the UK’s research councils and other select organisations to sponsor researchers. This is alongside the expansion of the exceptional talent route, benefiting current and future leaders in the digital technology, science, arts and creative sectors.

It rather sounds as if a new version of the old Post Study Work route for at least some students may be introduced, the original having been shut down in 2012.

This will require changes to the Immigration Rules, in which we will see the finer detail of the proposals. It is anyone’s guess when these might be introduced, but Thursdays in late November have been favoured in past years.

The bad news is that the Home Office is having its budget cut. Its day-to-day spending limit goes from £10.6 billion to £10.7 billion in 2019/20 – i.e. it will fall after accounting for inflation. Capital spending must fall sharply, from £0.6 billion in 2017/18 to £0.4 billion in 2020/21. By my rough calculations, that is a combined 3% real terms cut over the next two years.

This is likely to mean further increases in profit-making immigration fees, which have in recent years been used to close the funding gap in the Home Office budget.

The Ministry of Justice budget also continues to plummet. The Law Society points out that justice spending will be 40% lower in 2020/21 than it was in 2011/12 (again accounting for inflation).

The news that would not shock Sherlock Holmes is that the economy will suffer as a result of lower immigration. The Office for National Statistics puts annual net migration 20,000 lower in its latest population projections, which according to the Office for Budget Responsibility “reduces the level of GDP by around 0.2% by 2022”.

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CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney is a specialist on immigration law and policy. Formerly the editor of Free Movement, you will find a lot of articles by CJ here on this website! Twitter: @mckinneytweets.