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Government plans reviews of immigration system

Immigration Minister Damian Green will confirm this evening that the government is to look at all immigration routes into the UK and set new rules.

In a speech to the Royal Commonwealth Society, the minister will say that, on its own, an annual limit on workers from outside the European Union is not enough to reduce net migration levels to tens of thousands per year.

He will explain that the current points-based system for immigration is not yet properly controlling the numbers of people coming into the UK, and that an effective system needs to be found.

Forthcoming reviews will therefore:

  • look at who is qualifying, in both the work and study categories, to ensure that the brightest and best are being attracted to the UK;
  • study why those who come here on immigration routes that do not lead to settlement find it easy to change routes and settle here permanently; and
  • ensure a steady downward trend on every route to long-term immigration.

The minister will also discuss a new research report published today by the Home Office. 'The migrant journey' is based on analysis of all the people who came to the UK in 2004 (except those making short-term visits). The largest group of visas were found to be for students – and, of the 186,000 students granted visas in 2004, more than 20 per cent were still in the UK 5 years later.

The number of foreign students in the UK is rising: in the year to June 2010, more than 320,000 visas were issued to students and their dependants visiting for more than 6 months. The minister believes these levels are unsustainable, and will say that this will be looked at as a priority.

Alongside this, the government will also look at work routes that lead to citizenship. In 2004, more than 105,000 migrants were granted visas in one of these work routes – and the report shows that 40 per cent of them group were still in the UK in 2009.