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GORDON HENDERSON MP

FOR SITTINGBOURNE & SHEPPEY

Coalition starts to tackle immigration

Immigration is a big issue that the Coalition Government is at last starting to tackle by bringing immigration back under control, after inheriting a system that was in chaos. We are delivering on our commitment to reform each of the main routes of entry into this country and to bring net migration down to tens of thousands a year. By this summer we will have taken firm action on each of the main immigration routes.

• The first ever permanent cap on non-EU work migrants has now been in place for a year. The limit has not been reached in any month since the cap came into effect, so the numbers are falling while necessary skilled workers are allowed in.
 
• We have also reformed the student visa system - the largest route of entry. 116 licences to colleges have been revoked and another 179 licenses suspended. The reforms include a new accreditation system for colleges; new rules on the standard of English required for students; new restrictions to limit students working and bringing dependants; and ending the post-study work option for all but the very brightest. The number of Tier 4 student visas issued has fallen by 19% in the second half of 2011, compared to the same period in 2010.
 
• We have cut the automatic link between coming here to work and staying here permanently. Skilled temporary workers wanting to apply for settlement have to be earning £35,000 per year or the going rate for their job, whichever is higher.

• We will shortly set out measures to reform family immigration. A new minimum income requirement will also be introduced, to stop people coming here to live off benefits. We will extend the probationary period before a non-EEA spouse or partner can apply for settlement from two to five years, which will have the effect of reducing access to benefits for those who have recently arrived.
 
As well as reforming routes of entry, we are also strengthening security at our border. The UK Border Force is now a separate command within the Home Office under Chief Constable Brian Moore, with a clear focus on law enforcement.

Each month we stop approximately 1,000 people who should be refused entry to the UK from even boarding a plane. From this month, we will have advance sight of details of every passenger on non-EEA flights to the UK. This 100 per cent coverage, combined with our strict visa regime, means that all non-EEA passengers arriving from outside Europe will have been checked once, and many twice, before they reach the UK. This summer the border will be better protected than ever before, which is vitally important in an Olympic year.

We are also improving our immigration processes to continue to deliver better outcomes.

• 60% of new asylum applicants now receive a decision in just 30 days.
• Last year we removed over 4,500 foreign criminals.
• We now start deportation action on foreign national prisoners 18 months before the end of their sentence.
• We have started interviewing selected visa applicants to test their credibility.

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