/ 27 February 2009

Working pariahs

South Africans hoping to live and work in the United Kingdom have been dealt another blow, with the news that tough restrictions are to be placed on Tier 1 highly skilled migrant visas. Two weeks ago the British authorities announced that South Africans visiting Britain will now require tourist visas.

The Tier 1 visa, which previously worked under a flexible points system, will now operate under rigid new criteria requiring that applicants earn annual salaries of more than £20 000 (R290 000) and have master¹s degrees. The immigration consultancy 1st Contact Visas said they were designed ‘to protect the interests of British nationals in the face of the economic slump’.

The British High Commission confirmed that the main purpose was to ‘protect British workers’. In addition the Tier 3 lower-skilled migrant workers’ visa has been suspended entirely. The restrictions, which apply to all countries outside the European Economic Area, were likely to affect between 120 000 and 150 000 people of other nationalities who enter the UK under employment visas each year, 1st Contact said. More than 4 000 South Africans entered the UK in 2007 on work permits. Late last year the working holiday visa, permitting a two-year stay combining periods of holiday and work, was abolished.