The UK's immigration system has long needed updating. Based mainly on the ideology of whatever party is in power, the UK's immigration system is something of a mish-mash that seems to lack a clear vision. So, the news that the Home Office has announced a change in the way that policy is devised can only be a good thing.
The statement that announced the change of direction from the Home Office shows that the creation of new policy would be guided by the views of those who are most affected by the policy: the multiple stakeholders who have a vested interest in the way that immigration policy is devised. The Home office intends to have a series of events that encourage engagement from these stakeholders, and glean their views on what they need from the immigration system. There has been signs that the government was starting to change its tactics towards immigration by the structure of the newly announced Start-up and Innovator Visas. These two new visas rely on endorsement from industry experts rather than Home Office officials to assess the viability of a business idea. This has been seen as an extremely positive step for the future of immigration in the UK, especially in the face of a potential crippling effect from Brexit.
The Home Office has long been criticised for making decisions that is is not suited to do. By encouraging experts to share their views, the Home Office is helping to engage the business community and bring in new businesses that can thrive. With Brexit on the horizon, technical innovation and entrepreneurial spirit will be needed to ensure that the UK keeps its cutting edge. Without these new businesses, the UK faces an existential threat. A large number of businesses have already decided to move away from the UK due to Brexit, but an immigration system that prizes innovation could help to produce a new boom for the British economy.
One of the main ideas to come from the Home Office was the introduction of advisory groups. These groups would be made up of businesses from both the public and private sectors, and also those from the educational sphere. This, it is hoped, will create a new wave of policy that will be influenced more by experience and need than political ideology.
The advisory groups that will be set up will meet on a regular basis to provide the Home Office with useful insights that can be used to guide policy. These groups will also assess the technical aspects of any immigration policy that is currently in the works, and provide useful feedback that can help not only to shape current policy, but also enhance and improve future policy.
Another key feature of the advisory group set up is the inclusion of stakeholders from all corners of the UK. For a long time the needs of those in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have been put on the backburner. As London is the capital, and also the economic powerhouse of the UK, most policy is centred on the needs of those in the area. The new advisory group setup will ensure that diverse voices are heard from, even from the devolved governments of the UK's other countries. The union of the United Kingdom is going to be ever more important after Brexit, and by ensuring that the devolved countries have their say, we can ensure that relations are improved for the good of everyone.
We know from what we have seen that the government wants to introduce a single-stream system for immigration in the UK. This will be much like its idea of putting the UK's welfare system into a single stream with Universal Credit. It is hoped that this can reduce the cost of administration, and also improve outcomes in the UK's immigration system. While clearly there will be benefits to having a uniform system for immigration in the UK, it is not clear how the Home Office will achieve this aim. The immigration system is extremely diverse, and needs to cater to people from very different backgrounds and who have very different needs. While we applaud that the Home Office wants to make things simpler, there is also concern that the changes may produce a negative effect for those that wish to come to the UK. In the wake of a potentially crippling Brexit, the UK needs to be more forward thinking in its approach to immigration.
While there is clearly concern, the proposed changes, at least on paper, are a good thing. The immigration system could significantly benefit from taking the opinions of those who know what it is needed. But the concern is that the government is just paying lip service. Often criticised for not listening to outside views, the government has a poor track record of engaging with stakeholders.
It remains to be seen whether this new change in direction is a signal of good things to come, or just another government idea that has no future. We clearly hope for the former. The Home Office has encouraged the thoughts and expertise of others to help form the basis of the policy. If the government is committed to following this through, the idea of bringing in the wider community of stakeholders who are affected by immigration could be an excellent strategy in devising exactly the right type of immigration policy for the UK. This could make the UK the go-to destination for talented immigrants from around the world, and this can only be a good thing.
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