NRIs flay pay limit for UK settlement

London: A leading campaign group espousing the cause of Indian and other non-EU professionals has strongly opposed the proposal to introduce a salary threshold for migrants who wish to settle in the UK permanently after working here for five years.

Immigration minister Damian Green on Wedensday announced that for the first time, the link between the number of years a migrant spends in the country and permanent settlement was proposed to be broken with the requirement that they can settle only if they earn at least 35,000 pounds annually.

"Settlement in the UK should not be a right of the wealthy few. It is high time that these morally bankrupt politicians stopped preaching lessons on morality and human rights to the developing countries and turned its attention on the migrants who come to UK by ensuring them a fair and a reasonable chance of making a home in the UK irrespective of their class of earnings," the HSMP Forum said in a statement.

Until now, permanent settlement was automatic: if a migrant spends five years in the UK in an immigration route that leads to settlement, and has not committed major criminal offences, permanent settlement was granted, irrespective of the salary level.

The new measure is scheduled to take effect from 2016 and is likely to reduce the number of Indian and other non-EU migrants granted permanent from 60,000 to 20,000 every year.

The salary threshold would mean that many teachers, nurses and others from outside the EU would need to leave the UK after working for five years because they cannot meet the 35,000 pounds annual salary threshold.

Amit Kapadia, executive director of HSMP Forum, said: "We are concerned that the government`s proposed plans will not only lead to human rights abuses, litigations, enormous waste of tax payers` money but in addition will have a severe impact on public services and UK businesses".

He said: "The government only wants wealthy people as its citizens. How is that fair? The politicians seem to be busy waging petty wars in the name of immigration with both Labour and Conservatives crying hoarse over immigration. Draconian changes in fees and settlement criteria are prejudicial".

At a time when the David Cameron government should concentrate on getting the country out of recession, Kapadia alleged that it was trying to project immigration as the main issue.

"It should get its priorities right instead of making life miserable for the migrants," he said.

Thousands of Indian professionals migrate to the UK under various work categories.

After spending five years in their jobs, those seeking permanent settlement after April 2016 will need to earn at least 35,000 pounds in their jobs for permanent settlement.

Immigration minister Damian Green said migrants who enter as PhD-level scientists and researchers will qualify for settlement without having to meet the 35,000 pounds minimum salary threshold.

The new changes announced include restrictions on domestic workers who can come to the UK.

Such migrants will not be allowed to stay for more than six months, without a right to change employer.

However, current arrangements for domestic workers will continue for private servants in diplomatic households, but they will not be granted permanent settlement after five years.

Green said: "We are sweeping aside the idea that everyone who comes here to work can settle, and instead reserving this important right only for the brightest and best".

He added: "Our reforms of the immigration system will ensure we are more selective not only about those who are allowed to come here but also those who are allowed to stay permanently."