Abolish visa limits for skilled migrants, says IEA

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) think-tank release a report arguing that the government should ignore a cap on reducing net migration numbers and focus on types of migration and attracting high skilled workers.

Immigration visa stamp
The government should abandon its aim of reducing net migration to below 100,000 a year and, instead, allow free access to the UK for skilled migrants, according to a report on Monday from the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) think-tank.

IEA report says government should focus on types of immigration rather than numbers

The IEA said current policies inflicted “enormous economic self-harm” and that it was wrong for politicians to focus on overall numbers, as the public were concerned about types of immigration rather than volumes.Although the proposals for a post-Brexit immigration system, published by the government last month, did not specify a numerical net immigration target, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said it was ministers' intention to reduce it to "sustainable levels".The IEA said the migration of skilled workers, whom it described as "highly productive economic and fiscal net contributors", was popular with the British public, adding that limiting numbers amounted to "needless economic and political self-harm".

Call to abandon restrictions on working foreign students

Restrictions on working foreign students should also be abandoned, urged the report. At present, overseas students' working hours are capped to a maximum of 20 hours per week during term time.The report urged the adoption of a two-lane immigration system under which, in the 'fast lane', visas would enable free movement from some countries, including some in the European Economic Area. The 'standard lane' would be an uncapped version of the current system for the rest of the world.Kristian Niemietz, author of the report and head of political economy at the IEA, said, “Our current immigration policy represents, in some ways, the worst of all worlds. It inflicts enormous economic self-harm, because it is needlessly restrictive and bureaucratic in some respects – but at the same time, it fails to genuinely address the public's concerns and anxieties.

“The main reason for this is that in debating immigration, we are not being honest with ourselves. A close look at the survey data shows that when people claim to oppose 'immigration', it is really only specific types of immigration that they have in mind. They do not really care all that much about how many people come here. They care a lot more about who comes here, and why.“It is therefore possible to liberalise immigration rules substantially in some respects, whilst also accepting the public’s concerns and objections.”

Home office welcome argument for removal of caps to numbers of skilled workers

A Home Office spokesman said, “We welcome the Institute for Economic Affairs’ support for the removal of caps on the number of skilled workers, as the new skills-based immigration system proposals set out.“For the first time in a generation, we will have control of our immigration system, which will allow us to attract the talented workers we need, but everyone coming to the UK for work or study will need to get permission before doing so.“As the home secretary emphasised when announcing, we are delivering on the referendum result by ending free movement and remain committed to reducing net migration to sustainable levels.”Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online DirectorySubscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all of the international assignments and global mobility news.