Australians at a pub in London. In the mid-2000s you could barely move in some London suburbs without hearing an Aussie accent. Photo: Nick Miller
The changes will require non-Europeans to earn at least £35,000 a year to extend their visas. Photo: Anna Bryukhanova
Australians working in Britain may not be able to stay there indefinitely if they are on a lower income, under new rules due to kick in this year.
The changes, which take effect from April, will mean non-European workers will have to earn at least £35,000 ($72,000) a year to be allowed to settle in the UK for longer than six years.
The visa move, which was first flagged in 2012, will apply to those outside the European Economic Zone in a bid to “break the link” between working and staying permanently in Britain.
It follows a Cameron government push to reduce migration numbers, with estimates the numbers of non-European skilled workers settling in Britain each year would drop from 60,000 to 20,000 under the change.
Along with Indians and Americans, Australians make up the top nationalities given work visas in Britain. About 17,250 of the visas were given to Australians in 2014, but more than 12,300 of these went Australians under 30, who are on the two year “youth mobility” scheme.
On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Australia had “made representations” to the British government on the changes to its migration system.
This included making a submission to a review into the visa changes in September last year.
“The Australian submission noted that further restricting the Tier 2 visa [which involves the £35,000 rule] had the potential to adversely affect the commercial interests of both countries’ businesses and investors, and consequently the economic interests of both Australia and the UK, and could impact on people-to-people links,” the spokeswoman said.
The visa change is also generating opposition in Britain, amid concerns that it will force skilled graduates, teachers, health and charity workers to leave the country.
A petition against the change, lodged with the British Parliament, has so far generated more than 70,000 signatures.
“This ridiculous measure is only going to affect 40,000 people who have already been living and working in the UK for 5 years, contributing to our culture and economy,” it says.
“It will drive more workers from the NHS [National Health Service] and people from their families. This empty gesture will barely affect the immigration statistics. It’s a waste of time, money and lives.”
If the petition reaches 100,000 signatures, it is likely it will be debated by the Parliament.
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