The government’s proposed immigration plans for after the UK leaves the EU would cost employers over £1bn in additional administration costs over the following five years and “risks creating a new Windrush scandal” according to a new report.
The plans, published in the government’s Immigration White Paper, would also cause harm to the UK’s higher education sector by discouraging EU students from applying to study in this country and would cost the NHS £120m each year through additional costs associated with recruiting overseas staff. The study was carried out by Global Future, an independent think tank that supports a more open approach to immigration.
The white paper proposes the implementation of the same minimum salary threshold for EU citizens hoping to work in the UK as currently applies to those from outside the European bloc. At present, that would mean workers would have to earn £30,000 and be required to pay visa charges and other associated costs. Using modelling produced by the Home Office, the report suggests that, based on the number of people expected to apply for work visas, employers be required to pay out nearly £12,500 per worker, with a five-year total of £1.14bn. The cost to the public sector over this period is expected to total £337m.
The report also warns that requiring people living in the UK under freedom of movement to prove their status risks creating problems similar to those experienced by members of the ‘Windrush generation’, which created a political scandal last year. Failures by the Home Office resulted in UK nationals of Caribbean origin who had lived in the UK for decades being wrongly detained, denied legal rights, and in some cases being deported because they did not have the correct documentation.
The status of EU nationals living legally in the UK could be threatened as a result of lack of awareness, errors on the part of the Home Office, or technicalities if they had spent periods living outside the UK the study suggests.
Fergus Pearce, a Global Future researcher and author of the report said: “The white paper includes some sensible measures, but overall it represents an unambiguous shift towards a more complex and burdensome immigration system that will damage our country’s prospects.
“Requiring the Europeans who are allowed in to secure sponsored visas will create a £1bn bureaucratic headache for employers, including the NHS – syphoning hundreds of millions of pounds in visa fees out of cash-strapped hospitals and into the Home Office.”
A spokesman for Home Office said the figures “are entirely speculative”. He added that the government’s immigration plans “will include supporting businesses by stripping out bureaucracy through streamlining and digitising the system and committing to process the vast majority of work visas within three weeks.”
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