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Last month, the Government published its long-awaited Immigration white paper, setting out its plans for an immigration system after Britain leaves the European Union. Its stated aim is to establish a “skills-based immigration system” where it is “workers’ skills that matter, not which country they come from.”

This vision reflects previous Bright Blue research, and other studies such as British Future’s ‘National Conversation on Immigration’, which show that while Britons want immigration to be controlled, they also want it to be open to highly-skilled migrants.

A very welcome policy in the white paper is the decision to remove the annual cap entirely on the number of Tier 2 skilled work visas. Since December 2017, applications for Tier 2 visas have exceeded the present cap of 20,700 a year, depriving businesses of the talent they need.

However, the Government should have gone one step further and abandoned its net migration target of tens of thousands per year entirely. That the net migration target has never once been achieved since it was created at the start of this decade is a testament to its unrealistic nature. The target fails to distinguish between different types of migration, lumping them all into one simplistic number, when Bright Blue research shows that the public clearly differentiates between different categories of migrants.

Importantly, those on Tier 2 visas will still count towards the net migration target, despite the cap on their numbers being removed. This is similar to international students on their Tier 4 visas, which are not capped but are still included in the net migration figures. This creates the undesirable situation where there is no cap on numbers, but the Government is nonetheless still incentivised to reduce their numbers anyway.

A clear example of this is the proposed minimum salary threshold for migrants seeking a Tier 2 visa, which is unnecessarily and arbitrarily high. Although the exact figure will be subject to further consultation, the Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendation of a £30,000 minimum salary threshold would prevent many younger and talented individuals from migrating to the UK, especially for key economic sectors ranging from the NHS to the creative industries.

There is also a notable inconsistency in the growing use of salary thresholds as a way of determining the eligibility of migrants. For family visas, for example, the minimum salary threshold to be able to bring some family members to the UK is £18,600. This threshold increases for admitting a first child and rises further for every child after that. The £18,600 is considered by the Migration Advisory Committee to be the point at which a childless migrant will be a net contributor rather than a consumer of public finances. In this context, the MAC’s proposed £30,000 threshold for Tier 2 visas seems inconsistently and extraordinarily high.

To put it simply, salary thresholds are a blunt instrument. In taking a static view of income at the time of application, it fails to consider salary changes over time and the contribution that migrants will make in the long term. In addition, the threshold for when a migrant becomes a net contributor rather than a consumer of public finances will vary depending on a number of factors including age, number of children and housing tenure. A single salary threshold which applies to all migrants, and is not even equalised, fails to account for these differences.

While a balance needs to be found where migrants who come to the UK are contributors to public funds, relying on salary thresholds alone is a short-sighted and ill-considered solution, especially for Tier 2 visa-holders who are likely to be large contributors in the long term.

As Britain edges closer to leaving the European Union this year, it gets closer to assuming more control over its immigration policy. While the white paper takes some sensible steps, there are certainly areas, such as the £30,000 minimum salary threshold, where the Government must reconsider its position. Post-Brexit Britain’s immigration system must be controlled, yet it also needs to be open and indeed welcoming to talented migration which has and will continue to make such a positive contribution to Britain.

Sam Lampier is a Researcher at Bright Blue