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UNITED KINGDOM: A Numbers Game

The United Kingdom has introduced various restrictive immigration policies.

Since coming to power, the Conservative-led coalition government of the United Kingdom has introduced a number of changes to work, study, and family migration routes in an effort to reduce net migration. In crafting this barrier of restrictive policy, the government has trumpeted each new reform as a building block toward saving the UK's economy and protecting its people. However, in restricting the routes that permitted many productive and talented migrants to enter and remain, the government is frustrating the country's fiscal health and playing to a culture of alarmism.

Among those adversely affected by this approach have been Non-European Economic Area (non-EEA) migrant employees and the businesses who would seek to hire them. By constructing a wall of red tape in the form of confusing application forms, voluminous guidance, and unreasonable requirements, the UK government has given the distinct impression that the UK is closed for business.

Universities, too, have been hard-hit by the reforms and are faced with potentially losing billions of pounds due to the crackdown on overseas students. These changes limit the time non-EEA students can study in the UK, cut the number of hours they may work, reduce the options for post-graduation employment, and stem the ability of migrants to bring their spouses and children. The changes have caused significant reductions in enrollment.

Most recently, the UK government set its sights on family migration. Among the most criticized of these reforms, which came into force on July 9, 2012, has been the introduction of a minimum income of £18,600 for British citizens and settled persons who wish to sponsor a non-EEA migrant as their partner. Even higher income thresholds are in place for those seeking to sponsor a child or children. Additionally, the government now imposes an unreasonably long probationary period of five years (raised from two years) before non-EEA migrant partners may apply for settlement.

While undocumented immigration and abuses of the system are clearly legitimate concerns for any nation, the present UK government has adopted an exclusionary stance that acts as a barrier to many of the very people the UK should seek to attract. Bright students, productive employees with jobs and sponsors, and the spouses and partners of British citizens are all among those who have been prevented or discouraged from a life in the UK. Sadly, this appears to be a numbers game that we will all lose.

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