We’ve all seen the headlines about the UK offering a ‘meal ticket’ to immigrants through the exploitation of our welfare state. The truth is however that most people entering the UK that are subject to immigration control, do not have any access to our public purse. In fact, unless they’re here seeking refuge or protection, they have to demonstrate financial independence to even gain access to support in the first place.
With Article 50 triggered, here are three hard facts about the true cost of immigration to the UK for those wishing to live and work here.
Restrictions and criteria
Non-EEA nationals must possess a valid visa to enter the UK and these visas are subject to financial criteria. For foreign investors and entrepreneurs looking to generate business opportunities in the UK, this criteria can require proof of up to £2m in assets in order to secure entry. Working visas are means tested, with skilled workers in well-paid employment more likely to receieve offers of a visa than non-skilled workers. Even love comes at a price — if a British citizen or person with an indefinite leave to remain wishes to bring a non-British national into the UK, they must first demonstrate a minimum income of £18,600 or savings of at least £16,000 in order for their loved one to be granted a visa. For more information check out Spouse Visa UK.
Even EEA citizens have restrictions on the financial support they can access. No means-tested benefit is payable within the first three months of residency, and then, only if they demonstrate a commitment to finding work and can pass a ‘habitual residence test’ which considers their likelihood of employment and the action they have taken to seek work.
According to a University College of London report between 1995 and 2011 EEA immigration contributed £8.8bn more to the UK purse than it took out in benefits. In fact, since 2000 immigrants have been a substantial net contributor of more than £20bn to the UK economy at a time when recession was at its worst.
Another fact is that some industries and professions have been kept alive by immigration; including the NHS that supposedly is due to benefit in a post-Brexit world, or so the Leave campaign would have us believe.
Mind the gap
Immigration brings valuable human capital and vital skills to Britain that some estimate would have cost the UK £6.8bn in education.
As the UK continues to try and prop up its skills shortage in key areas like STEM careers, immigration can help plug the gap and help grow our fragile economy.
Whatever decisions are taken over the next two years with regards to the immigration question, there is no getting around the fact that the free movement of people — ideas, skills, money and culture — has had a positive impact on the UK and the rest of the world. We are a global community — let’s hope we can maintain that feeling even after Brexit.