The Government has sent the clearest signal yet that it is planning measures to cut the number of refugees who are allowed to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
Usually a pre-cursor to citizenship, ILR allows asylum seekers to stay in the UK indefinitely, subject to them not committing any serious crime. A person with ILR can usually also have it revoked if they travel overseas for a lengthy period. Many people given ILR therefore see it as a stepping stone towards full citizenship.
The Coalition has spoken before about its desire to end the presumption that everyone who comes to the UK, whether as a worker or as a refugee, will automatically accrue the right to Indefinite Leave to Remain (known as ILR). Immigration minister Mark Harper has announced that he intends to “slow the path to settlement for refugees”. Mr Harper has also announced changes to the way the Home Office handles settlement applications for refugees who have committed crimes and a new power to “curtail leave for persistent or serious offenders”.
This policy seems intended to contribute to the fulfilment of David Cameron’s pledge while in opposition to reduce the UK’s net annual immigration figure to “tens of thousands” if elected.
Since it was elected, the Government has:
Abolished two Tier 1 visas;
the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa which allowed international graduates from UK universities to stay and work in the UK for two years after graduation
The Tier 1 (General) visa which allowed foreign graduates to work in the UK
Imposed a cap of 20,700 on the number of Tier 2 (General) visas for skilled workers that can be issued each year
Introduced a minimum income threshold for UK residents who want to bring their foreign spouses to live with them in the UK.
Removed the Tier 4 sponsorship licences from over 500 further education thereby preventing them from teaching international students
In November 2011, the Government announced that it intended to remove the right of some international workers with Tier 2 visas to settle in the country on a permanent basis. As of 2016, Tier 2 workers who earn under £35,000 per year will not be able to apply for ILR.