Foreign workers will need a salary of more than £30,000 to come to Britain under reforming plans as annual net migration is expected to stick at around 500,000 in figures to be announced this week.
Ministers are expected to set out proposals to reduce the level of net migration by raising the salary threshold for skilled workers.
Workers outside shortage occupations currently require at least £26,200 in salary to take up jobs in the UK, significantly below the median wage of £33,000.
The proposal, which has yet to be finalised, comes ahead of this Thursday’s net migration data for the year ending June 2023, which is expected to have remained at significantly higher levels than they were pre-Brexit.
Net migration, the number entering the UK minus those leaving, hit a record peak of 637,000 in the year ending September 2022 before falling to 606,000 in the year ending December 2022.
It is expected to have fallen as a result of increasing emigration including overseas students returning home and a decline in the number of Ukrainian refugees and Hong Kongers.
Experts anticipate it may be around 500,000, more than double the 226,000 in 2019 and blowing apart the Government’s 2019 manifesto pledge to bring down the overall rate of net migration.
The surge has been fuelled by more than 1.4 million migrants a year being granted visas primarily from outside the EU to enter the UK to work, study or escape conflict or oppression.
The proposals to reduce net migration have been pushed within government by Robert Jenrick, the Immigration Minister, and Suella Braverman, before she was sacked as home secretary.
In an interview with The Telegraph last week, Mr Jenrick warned that the Government’s failure to reduce net migration was a “betrayal” of the British public. Ministers have consistently argued that business must boost training and recruitment of British workers rather than relying on imported foreign staff.
“Net migration is far too high. For more than 30 years, the British public have been voting for controlled migration. But politicians of all stripes have failed to deliver the migration system that they’re seeking,” he said.
“When we left the European Union, we took back control of the levers of migration. But then we went on to betray the promise by failing to establish a system which significantly reduced levels of migration. I want to see fundamental reform of our system, and that needs to happen as a matter of urgency.”
The plans are still being considered but it is thought likely that ministers will agree to raise the salary threshold for skilled workers to around the median wage of £33,000.
It is not clear whether the plans will include restrictions on the number of foreign care workers, currently standing at 120,000 a year, and on migrants bringing their families to the UK.
However, it is believed Rishi Sunak has resisted further curbs on foreign students beyond the ban on postgraduate students other than research-led PhDs bringing their relatives for fear of deterring highly-skilled people who could boost growth.
In a report earlier this year, the New Conservatives group of Right-wing Tory MPs called for the salary threshold for skilled workers to be raised to £38,000, which they claimed could reduce the number of migrants by 54,000 per year.
Oxford University Migration Observatory noted that the threshold had not kept pace with inflation and would now be around £30,000 if ministers had increased in line with rising wages.
It said private businesses would bear the brunt of any increase in salary levels but the big question would be over care workers where the salary threshold was discounted as a shortage occupation.