A former Cabinet Minister has added his voice to calls for the Home Office to think again about its plans to introduce a £35,000 minimum earnings target for overseas workers who have lived in the UK for five years.
Those non-EU international workers in Britain on a UK visa will be required to earn the minimum salary if they want to stay in the country after April this year. The figure is being raised from the current £20,800.
But Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael, who was Scottish Secretary in the Coalition Government and is now the party’s Home Affairs spokesman, told The Independent that the move would damage the UK’s position in the global economy.
He is now writing to Home Secretary Theresa May to ask how many people will have to leave Britain when the minimum threshold comes into effect.
Labour’s Keir Starmer, the Shadow Immigration Minister, said the Government should look again at the threshold. He said there were “real concerns” about how the changes would affect key sectors of the economy.
A petition urging the Government to reconsider at the earnings figure has been started by Joshua Harbord.
He said: “These aren’t the benefits-scrounging, baby-sprouting terrorists that everyone seems so afraid of.
"They're people who have worked in the UK for years, making friends and families, building homes and communities and contributing to this country's culture and economy.”
As the plans stand, anyone in the UK on a work visa who has been in the country for five years but does not earn £35,000 annually will be prevented from settling in Britain and will face deportation.
Currently, nurses – who can rarely command salaries of £35,000 – are not included because they are among the occupations deemed to be facing a shortage. But if they are removed from the shortage list, the same earnings rule would be applied to them.