An online petition launched by Joshua Harbord and signed by more than 100,000 people is calling for the scrapping of the proposed £35,000 salary threshold for non-EU citizens settling in the UK.
This new rule which is due to be introduced in April this year would apply to non-EU citizens who wish to remain in the UK after working here for 5 years. Under this regulation they would now have to be earning over £35,000 in order to be eligible to remain in the UK, otherwise they may face deportation.
The petition argues that this threshold would unfairly impact charity workers, nurses, students and low-earners in general. Critics have further argued that setting the threshold at £35,000 is unrealistic and unreasonably high, and that the UK will lose thousands of skilled workers as a result of this measure.
Once the petition received the required minimum of 10,000 signatures a written response from the Government was received. The Government stated that the new rule applied only to those holding leave under Tier 2 as skilled graduate-level migrants, whose median pay at the time of consultation from the Migration Advisory Committee was £35,000. The response statement also emphasised that a number of categories, such as those working in a PhD-level occupation or in a recognised shortage occupation, would be exempt from this requirement. The Home Office also stressed that the workers who would be affected were aware that the new settlement rules would apply to them when they entered into their Tier 2 visas from 2011, and that employers also had plenty of notice to prepare for this.
Upon the petition having reached over 100,000 signatures, it was then further debated in Parliament on 7 March. Despite being named personally in the petition, the Secretary of State Theresa May did not attend the debate and instead sent a junior Minister to attend.
The Parliamentary debate ended with junior Minister for Refugees Richard Harrington suggesting that if we were to look at the effects of the policy in two years' time it "will be seen to be sensible, reasonable and measured". In contrast, Labour has previously called the proposed rule "ill-considered, destructive and discriminatory".
If uncontested, the measure will come into effect next month and could cost the Treasury, according to the petitioners, a loss of more than £500 million in economic contributions.