British Prime Minister, Theresa May, is facing calls to rethink the “discriminatory” new earnings threshold of £35,000 for non-European Union migrants including Nigerians and other Africans that could starve Britain of vital talent in the teaching, charity and entrepreneur sectors when the changes take effect in April.
Overseas workers who have lived in the UK for five years will have to prove they will be paid the new minimum threshold in order to stay in the country.
Those who fail to demonstrate earnings of more than £35,000 will be denied settlement in the UK and will face deportation according to the new Home Office policy.
The government temporarily exempted nurses from the new rules last autumn in response to fears about widespread shortages of workers across the NHS.
But the earnings threshold could be applied to migrant nurses in the future should the government decide to take them off the Shortage Occupation List.
Former Cabinet minister, Alistair Carmichael, who was David Cameron’s Scottish Secretary before the election, told The Independent of UK that discriminating on the basis of income would harm the UK’s place at the “forefront of the global economy,” while shadow immigration minister, Keir Starmer, said there were “real concerns” over how key industries would be affected.
Mr Starmer, who served as the Director of Public Prosecutions from 2008 to 2013, urged ministers to “look more closely” at the threshold, which is currently £20,800 – around £5,000 less than the average UK salary.
A petition launched earlier last week to try to force the government to rethink the sharp rise in the minimum income requirements has attracted more than 2,000 signatures.
Joshua Harbord, who set up the petition on the Parliament website, told The Independent that he decided to take action because he knew a number of “incredibly upset and scared” people who were set to be affected by the changes but had no one speaking up on their behalf.
“These aren’t the benefits-scrounging, baby-sprouting terrorists that everyone seems so afraid of,” he said.
“They’re people who have worked in the UK for years, making friends and families, building homes and communities and contributing to this country’s culture and economy.”