The UK’s post-Brexit immigration system will deny visas to low-skilled workers, the government has said.
A new points-based system – to be introduced from January 2021 – is intended to end dependence on “cheap labour from Europe”.
Ministers claim they will also make it easier for higher-skilled workers to get UK visas.
But critics say the proposals could be an “absolute disaster” for the social care sector, and there are “serious concerns” about the impact on farming.
The Home Office estimates 70% of EU workers currently in the UK would not meet the requirements if applying under the new system.
The salary threshold for skilled migrants will be lowered from £30,000 to £25,600, but those coming to the UK must already have a job offer and speak English.
EU and non-EU nationals will be treated equally with priority given to those with “the greatest talents”, such as engineers and scientists.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “We will attract the brightest and the best from around the globe, boosting the economy and our communities, and unleash this country’s full potential.”
If an applicant earns less than the threshold – but no less than £20,480 – they may still be able to come if they are skilled in an area with a shortage of labour.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has warned the care, construction, hospitality, food and drink sectors could be most affected by the changes.
Christina McAnea from Unison, which represents care workers, said: “These plans spell absolute disaster for the care sector. Care doesn’t even get a mention in the home secretary’s plans.
“Companies and councils can’t recruit enough staff from the UK so have to rely on care workers from elsewhere. But even with these migrant employees, there’s still way too few care workers to meet demand.”
The Royal College of Nursing also said the proposals would “close the door” on lower-paid healthcare workers, while the UK Homecare Association warned it could mean more people “waiting unnecessarily in hospital or going without care”.
National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters argues the proposals could “severely impact the farming sector”.
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) praised the reduction of the skilled worker salary threshold, but was cautious about the impact on less skilled workers in food production.
Mark Harrison, a spokesperson for the FDF, said: “We have concerns about access to those potential employees who won’t qualify through these ‘skilled’ routes such as bakery assistants, meat processors, and workers essential to the production of huge array of basic foodstuffs such as cheese, pasta, and sausages.”
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “This isn’t an ‘Australian points-based system’, which is a meaningless government soundbite.
“It’s a salary threshold system, which will need to have so many exemptions, for the NHS, for social care and many parts of the private sector, that it will be meaningless.
“Ultimately, it will also be very difficult to attract the workers we need at all skill levels while the Tories’ hostile environment is in place. It needs to go.”
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine said the proposals were based on “xenophobia” and not the “social and economic needs of our country”. – Sky News.