Scottish immigration is currently managed in accordance with the UK’s points-based system. This means that the same visa categories, rules and regulations that apply for England are also currently applicable to Scotland. From 18 September 2014 however this may be set to change.
A majority vote in favour of Scottish independence will open the way for Scotland to take control and responsibility for its own migration policy and its own borders. Those in support of independence see that this will better enable Scotland to tailor its immigration policy and criteria to better address the particular skills, demographics, and skilled labour shortages in Scotland. In short, Scottish governments will be able to make policy decisions on the basis of Scotland’s own needs.
The current Scottish Government intends to apply a points-based approach targeted at particular Scottish needs. From an immigration point of view the post-study work visa is one category that will quickly come under the spotlight. In April 2012, the Westminster Government stopped the post-study work visa, which allowed graduates to work in the UK or set up a business for two years thereby retaining skilled and educated graduates as part of the UK labour force. In order to attract more talented students and researchers to come to Scotland the Scottish Government has made clear its plans to reintroduce the post-study work visa.
Other immigration related changes will see a reduction in the current financial maintenance thresholds and minimum salary levels for entry in order to better align them with Scottish average wages and cost of living.
There will not be any border controls between Scotland and the rest of the UK or Ireland – these countries (and also the Isle of Man and Channel Islands) already operate a common travel area which Scotland will remain part of.
With Scotland retaining membership of the EU, citizens from other EU countries living in Scotland will be able to remain here as before and all those legally in Scotland at independence will be able to remain in Scotland under the terms of their existing Scottish visa.