Mr Green’s speech points to 'double-plus selectivity'

The speech of the immigration minister, Damian Green, before an audience assembled by the Conservative think-tank Policy Exchange this morning didn’t quite turn out to be the announcement of firm new policy we had thought it might be.

Much of the detail is still obviously being worked over by the policy wonks in the UK Border Agency and it seems we will have to wait another month or so before we find out more on the income levels the government intends to fix to allow family members in the UK to be joined by partners and children residing abroad, or the rate for the chosen elite of skilled workers who will be allowed to proceed from temporary status to settlement and eventual British citizenship.

The principle of double-plus selectivity

But Mr Green did set out the principle which is going to guide the thinking of his department on these issues, and it is called selectivity double-plus, or super-selectivity.

As he put it in his speech, the Home Office needs to know not just the right numbers of people who are to be allowed to settle in the UK, but also that they are the right people. He wants to push beyond the ranks of the ordinary, hardworking, enterprising bog-standard migrant to get to the ‘brightest and the best’ who can be relied on to perform at the level of Bill Gates or James Caan.

Damian Green at Policy Exchange - 2 February 2012Selection, selection, selection, runs through the minister’s thinking like Blackpool through a stick of rock. 

What will it look like in practice?

A worrying foretaste might be got from his obvious disdain for ‘the middle manager’, trashed in his comments as a species akin to ‘unskilled labour’.  What he wants instead are “top of the range professionals, senior executives, technical specialists, entrepreneurs and exceptional artists and scientific talent.”

Fine and dandy.  But one’s knowledge of the business world does not have to extend much beyond a few episodes of The Apprentice to know that all these top notch people are today to be found amongst the ranks of the dreamers and restless neurotics burdened with the hope that their exceptional self-believe and rampant narcissism will carry them upwards to the heights of the super-achievers.

Presumably the business of awarding Points-Based visas is not going to be conducted on the same principles as Dragon’s Den, as entertaining as that might be. Instead expect that a company’s application to sponsor a much-needed worker will be much more a matter of a team of Border Agency officials crawling over business plans and management structure organograms in an effort to determine the point in which the performance level goes beyond the merely very good and edges towards the absolute stellar.

Back to the future

If Mr Green truly intends to move skilled migrant recruitment in this direction he should be reminded what the work permit system looked like back in the early 1990s, when often clumsy and inept civil servants spent weeks and months second-guessing the business decisions of employers, turning down three out of every four applications to bring in a worker.

He is in danger of designing a thick-headed and unresponsive system. We have already had a glimpse of just how badly his department can set up these schemes in the exceptional talent route he introduced last year as a way to bring in “the brightest and the best” working in the field of the arts and science and technology. According to insiders, five months into the scheme’s operation, a tiny minority (as few as 6) of visas had been issued as against the 1000 the scheme had allowed for.

The problem the Home Office is likely to be generating for itself in wrapping up its skilled migration policies in the rhetoric of only the very best, is that it is likely to deter applications from people who, although very good, are not so self-absorbed as to think of themselves as being amongst ‘the best’. It will be the UK’s loss if that happens: the merely very good are likely to be quite good enough to be recruited to less ridiculously demanding immigration countries like the United States, Australia, or any of our European competitors.

Mr Green’s plans are not likely to be welcomed by employers. They will have to work harder to encourage the workers they want to recruit to come to the UK, with the prospect of a limited scope for family admission and long-term settlement, which we can expect to be announced soon.

Speaking of migration...

But perhaps the thing from the minister’s speech that really takes the biscuit is his pious call for a raising of the ‘tone of the immigration debate’. This comes from a man who only within the last fortnight, together with his ministerial counterpart in DWP, has had to be reprimanded by the head of the UK Statistics Authority for unethical behaviour in trailing evidence from departmental research in a misleading and prejudicial commentary which incited public feeling against people born abroad who, in relatively low numbers, had received work-related social welfare benefits.

So, there is little in this speech that would encourage anyone to take heart that better immigration policies are just around the corner. A more accurate way to put it would be: expect to be tangled up in blue ribbon if you are an employer wanting to sponsor a skilled worker. And if you are a skilled worker with a family life and wanting to make a long-term commitment to settlement, look for more respect and better prospects in countries with more generous dispositions and sunnier climes.

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Apart from being unpleasant and snobby, the irony of the 'middle manager' comment is that Damian Green is a bit of a middle manager himself - the important announcements are made by Theresa May; Green's primary role appears to be to remind us all he is still here every six weeks or so.

I would be very surprised that the requirement that entrants on family visas should be required to 'add to the quality of life of the nation' is legally watertight, if not for the migrant then for their British spouse.

Let's leave aside for later the rather nasty racism and snobbery of Green's remarks.

So it seems that a British citizen would only be able to bring a non-EU spouse to live with them if the Brit earns over about £26k. The consultation document made it clear that they do not want the earnings potential of the spouse to be considered.

By apparently choosing the median household income, rather than a figure based on absolute need, surely they guarantee a successful HRA challenge from a Briish spouse within about 5 minutes?

"You can only have a family life if you're in the wealthier half of the population" cannot stand up to too much inspection.

Here is  the electronic version of the speech, for everyone who would like to read the full version:

Reading this speech in full confuses me further. How in the world are the going to make sure immigrants are contributing in a way that benefits the UK all the time? This all seems very Big Brother.

Should the UKBA change their slogan to "WE'RE WATCHING YOU. ALWAYS."

Yet another example of how remarkably inept this government is...they keep sticking to the "net migration" figure which is mostly outside their control. Let alone the fact that they don't know how many people are actually leaving the country so how "net migration" is calculated is beyond me.

It is also unbelievable how anyone can think that a 11% fall in student visas is a success given the obvious financial losses for universities and local economy arising from it.

As for the income threshold I also think it won't stand in court but of course UKBA would rather waste taxpayers' money and wreck immigrants lives during expensive litigation instead of getting their policy right in the first place.

Just when you think it can't get worse...oh wait, I've read nothing about asylum seekers, I hope they are not the next target...

About 50% of "students" on student visas are "studying" "English" at the "Cambridge School of English" in East London, or something similar. This involves going to the owner's flat on the first day of "term", paying £1000 to register, then going to their new job at the local factory or takeaway.

Real university students are unaffected by the changes in the student visa system, except for price increases, which are tiny in proportion to the tuition fees - which can be up to £150,000 for medical students. Yes, that's what I'm paying, and I have seen lots of fake students coming in to hospital.

I dont expect less from Mr Green, it is rather unfortunate that we had to listen to him every now and then. But analysing his message futher from the context of the immigration problem we currently have, the issu is not those waiting to come into the ocuntry but thosealready here that are not supposed to be here, those here on work permit but are collecting benefits and the list goes on, generally those here violating the terms of their stay. By failing to tailor his policies to these group that are already here, it seems to me Mr Green had given up on that. that is a silent admission of failure by Mr Green in my opinion.

Of all the promises made in his speech today, i fail to see the practicality of any of them, the £31K is a mirage because not very many people in the UK earns that much.

How about we just shut down all our foreign embassies (visa sections of course) in all non EU countries for 6 months while we sort out our immigration system Mr Green (if you ever read this)?

Common Mr Green, go get yourself a fishing hook, line and sinker and go to the thames, I will send some beer in the post...

"Migrants on work permits receiving benefits" is misleading, to say the least. Most benefits are only accessible with an ILR which most immigrants receive after having contributed for 5 years and getting nothing in return.

And no, closing the embassies is not an option; I believe the whole country expects to make some money from foreign visitors, especially during the Olympics :)


Hmmm... Let's go further. While we are banning people, let's ban all foreign products and brick up the channel tunnel as well. No one in, no one out. And cancel the Olypmics. And just in general get out of EU, UN, Commonwealth and NATO. Then we are almost really getting somewhere.

btw Jacobs... That was irony, in case you missed it.

I have been working in the UK for 3 years on a working permit. I pay taxes and I study part-time. My husband, who is a dependent on my working permit, works full time and studies part time as well. We are in our early thirties, healthy and fully integrated in our local societies. English is our second language, but it is propably well above average as we both studied English Literature, but neither of us earn £31,000.00 a year. Together we earn more than that, but if our LTR (which is coming up next year November) would be decided on my salary alone, we will have to leave the country. We own a property and we have lots of English friends and we love Britain as it is more liberal than our home country. Are we simply not good enough? We fit better into this society and are thinking of starting a family, but will we simply be deemed as unwanted citizens when it is decision time because I don't earn enough?

I'm a UK citizen currently residing in Hong Kong and looking to move back to the UK later this year with my Chinese wife. The changes to the UK's immigration policy are a constant worry for us. They seem always to raise further barriers to our future settlement.

My wife has a BEd and an MA in teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, plus over three years' experience teaching Chinese at an international school, here in Hong Kong. She is fluent in English and has passed her Life in the UK test (on our most recent trip back to the UK). She will evidently be an asset to the UK economy, as Mandarin skills are in high demand, however neither of us are high income earners.

Hong Kong's an expensive city, but we have still managed to amass about 15kGBP in savings. We are both teachers and have been living and working here for four years, so naturally we haven't got any jobs at all lined up back in the UK. Last year's rule changes have left us deeply concerned that we won't have enough in savings to pass muster, even with free accommodation in place, and this new requirement that I, as my wife's sponsor, be earning 18 to 26k just knocks us back even further.

We're going to have to try for ILE with immediate conversion to ILR upon arrival under Immigration Rules Part 8 para 281(i)(b) and 282(b), and hopefully thereby negate some or all of these increasingly repressive financial requirements. Otherwise I, as a British citizen, born and bred, may quite simply never be able to move back home again!


Thanks for sharing these stories about the difficulties you are anticipating as arising from these expected rule changes - real eye-openers.  
Tom - you at least have the option of planning your move before any new restrictions on income levels kick in.  I presume you are getting good advice on how you stand in relation to the current rules.  Good luck with that!
Lucy - from what you say, and if the rule changes are as restrictive as we think the might be, it sounds as though you may be thinking of an article 8 human rights challenge if things go against you.  We'll be reporting on how the rules and policy change on a regular basis on this website.  Do keep in touch with us in the meantime - good idea to sign up to our weekly newsletter if you are not already getting that.

I really want to know whether this new policy will apply to someone like me who has entered the UK on a 5 year working permit in 2008. I want to apply for settle met next year October and I honestly do not think that I would have come here if I did not have a chance to settle here.
I own a property, I have plans to start my own business, but I simply do not earn £31.000.00 a year yet. I strongly believe I will as soon as I can make some changes regarding my working circumstances and that I will be an asset for the British economy, but at the moment I feel as the drawbridge is getting pulled out from underneath me.

Here is my scenario: My wife and I have been living in the UK for 4 years, 3 of which have been on a working permit. We have bought property here in which we reside, we pay taxes & NI - without wanting to or being able to claim any benefits. We are law-abiding people from a non-EU country. Each of us hold 2 degrees and are earning circa £21k each a year. As we are from a Commonwealth country, we are allowed to vote in elections in which there actual changes in office. Almost perversely, should Damian Green's ideas come to fruition, we could very well cast a vote just before being asked to leave the country, come the end of October 2013. Whereas I agree with with Damian Green's assertion that only the right kind of people should be allowed to settle in Brittain, setting the bar at an annual salary of £31k simply means that Mr Green feels that all UK citizens earning less than that are undesirable. This also means that you can be a cruel, bigoted and greedy person - but as long as you are earning more than £31k, that's okay. Surely, this is not the 'right kind of person'. I fear that the measurements Mr Green is trying to use to better manage immigration is simply the wrong kind of test. I agree 100% with Don Flynn that it might be better for any prospective immigrants to instead look elsewhere. Had we known that we would be asked to leave the country after 5 years of residence, we would never have decided to come here in the first place. I sincerely hope that someone will come to their senses about this and work towards a fairer solution, but there has been little or no public outcry about Mr Green's proposals. I think we will be packing our bags soon.

My previous comment was an irony, since Mr Green wants to stop just about everyone from coming to the UK but derives pleasure from taking the money of people wishing to come to the UK....

@Lucy My advice to you is to start your application earlier (at the earliest opportunity). I was in your shoes few years ago and what the UKBA did to me almost led me to total depression, that was how i became a member of MRN. Make your application well before the current one expires, so you have time for any eventualities. I lost my house and job too ( and i was earning well over £31000 back then) + 7 months in detention. Please don't wait any longer, apply today if possible, the more time you have to contest anything the UKBA throws at you the better and the more chance of success. Best of luck

@Chester - applies to you too




Dear Jacobs,

I don't understand how I can apply for my LTR so long before my working permit expires? As far as I know I can only apply for it 5 weeks before my permit will expire and that will only be in Ocotber 2013. According to the home office, we can only apply for LTR after being in the country on a work permit for 5 years. So I don't see how I can possibly do anything about this. I am really depressed already. But thank you for you advice.

Why would these wealthy , well qualified professionals who are likely to be jetting all over the world any how want ,or need to settle in cold wet Britain.

@Lucy - I know the feeling but don't keep quiet over this, seek help (all form of help - Legal, emotional etc). Research and continue to research relevant changes in laws and policies of the HO, start preparing your arsenal of weapons to fight the UKBA. make sure all your documents are in order, get paper copies, especially bank statements, don't give no room for any ridiculous excuse from the UKBA. And be warned, they have no respect for the court either. Best of luck.....

@ Lucy

I think you are right: you can't apply before the 5 years expire as you will need to show that you've been in the UK for 5 years before you can get ILR. The wage limit has not been set officially so it makes little sense to worry about it now. Did you come under HSMP? Why don't you check if you could get your work permit extended (as opposed to getting ILR)?
In the worst possible case, as Don says, you have good chances with a human rights claim under Article 8 but of course that would most likely involve going to court.

I'm not a lawyer so this is not legal advice but I just wanted to wish you good luck.

Thank you all, I will no doubt keep up to date with everything and dear european citizen, I guess I worry because it is in my nature and yes you are right, it has not been set officially yet, But no, I am only on a working permit and I would like ILTR as I woul like some freedom regarding my working envirionment as I feel very trapped on a working permit and a lot of stress is connected to being on one as one constantly has so much to lose in case one loses one's job. I will not earn enough to go on an HSMP.

Hi Don,
thanks to know that there is some to guide those who are economic migration routes. I was on work permit since June 2007 and then I got extension under Transitional arrangements working with same employer in June 2011. I would be eligible for my ILR in May 2011. I have my dependents my wife and two month old daughter in UK. My Wife Earns 35K annually but I am main applicant who earns 25K annually. I don't know if Govt is planning to apply these rules retrospectively. I would be eligible for ILR in few months' time after working hard, paying taxes, and obeying rules in UK. My question is that when they made statement in June 2011 that
" The consultation will run for three months, until 9 September and we will announce our firm
plans in due course. As the Home Secretary announced in February, we intend the
settlement reforms will affect those workers who entered economic migration routes under
the Immigration Rules in force from 6 April this year and who, under the current system,
could have expected to apply for settlement in 2016". You can find this Ministeral statement at UKBA site.
So even after assuring this that it would not effect those who were already here can this Govt apply this changes retrospectively. Can we challenge this rules if imposed on us.

Hi Don,
thanks to know that there is some to guide those who are economic migration routes. I was on work permit since June 2007 and then I got extension under Transitional arrangements working with same employer in June 2011. I would be eligible for my ILR in May 2012. I have my dependents my wife and two month old daughter in UK. My Wife Earns 35K annually but I am main applicant who earns 25K annually. I don't know if Govt is planning to apply these rules retrospectively. I would be eligible for ILR in few months' time after working hard, paying taxes, and obeying rules in UK. My question is that when they made statement in June 2011 that
" The consultation will run for three months, until 9 September and we will announce our firm
plans in due course. As the Home Secretary announced in February, we intend the
settlement reforms will affect those workers who entered economic migration routes under
the Immigration Rules in force from 6 April this year and who, under the current system,
could have expected to apply for settlement in 2016". You can find this Ministeral statement at UKBA site.
So even after assuring this that it would not effect those who were already here can this Govt apply this changes retrospectively. Can we challenge this rules if imposed on us.

The financial income level the Govt is suggesting isn't set by what they think people should need but a level at which they believe people do NOT have in order that they can be refused a visa.
It is a continueing policy of denying as many migrants as possible a visa because they are being discriminatory and racist against NON EU NATIONALS, That is the Coalition Govt policy which is being produced against NON EU nationals because the Govt cannot do anything about EU nationals getting into the UK!
The comment is made about 'managers' of the UKBA by D Green and T May.
It has recently been reported in the national press that TEN BORDER AGENCY STAFF have been caught harbouring illegal immigrants!
Another 39 staff have been disciplined for abuse of position in relation to immigration misconduct and a further eight cited for organised activity!
The there has been a report that the Kolar murder suspect in Birmingham entered the UK without a passport!
The Indi reported that Britain is gaining a reputation for being a ''no go'' zone for international students risking the loss of billions of pounds to the economy and to universities reliant on foreign students for the higher students fees they pay!
So the crude discriminatory racist Govt policy against NON EU nationals is being applied in a manner that is highly detrimental to the UK and is losing the UK £Billions. Yet the actual work of the UKBA protecting our borders is being neglected!
So isn't it time for T May and D Green to start MANAGING the UKBA and ensuring it is ''FIT FOR PURPOSE' and it is doing the job of protecting the UK borders from criminals torturers and terrorists instead of ordinary respectable students migrants and spouses it currently targets?

@ D Singh

Hi Mister D, check out the following letter that was sent to Damian Green in November 2011:

Amit Kapadia from the hsmp forum ltd makes a good case against any retrospective action being taken by the government. I will definitely be making a donation to the forum.



Both of you are right but remember when these ridiculous decisions are eventually made by the UKBA/HO staffs, it is left for the applicant to carry the hurdle to fight. From my very recent experience, this is not a cheap venture and not everyone will come out of it victorious - I survived with the skin of my teeth (i actually gave up but was assisted by solicitors who worked for free for well over 4 months)....

If the UK govt (through the UKBA case workers who most applicants deal with) keep their side of the contract, there wont be a need for this conversation).

It seems that Europe is being plunged into the depths of conservatism and intolerance yet again, and politicians are making use of such rhetoric to gain votes.

We have made a unique film ( Borders ) which tells the story of a young middle eastern couple
attempting to construct a new life for themselves on the streets of a European metropolis. Please join our community to help us raise awareness about the issue by simply 'Like'ing our facebook page:

Or follow us on Twitter:

@D Singh


Thanks D Singh  for reminding us the government appears to have made a commitment to limit retrospective effect to those entering after April 2011. I'd be inclined to think that this must carry some weight and people arriving pre-April 2011 have some level of protection.  But the people who arrived after that date seem to be vulnerable to have any stiffer conditions on settlement being applied to them.

Chester is right - this is unfair and we should look forward to supporting anyone who plans to mount a legal challenge against the restrospective effect of any conditions applied after the date of entry. 

@ Don

I've been thinking about this statement and I hope you are right. But in case they indeed plan to apply it to those who would have only applied for settlement in 2016, how does this fit with their policy to reduce migration before the end of this Parliament (i.e. 2015)? Presumably all these measures are aimed at achieving this ridiculous target of reducing net migration to tens of thousands. It doesn't make sense.
I'm worried that as we get closer to the next election the government would be under pressure to meet its target...

I have been in the UK for 21 years, got Master's Degree from a UK University. I am employed by one of the departments of the Central Government. Last year, I got married to a lady from one of the Commonwealth countries, after my marriage to an English lady broke down in 1999. I have two children from previous relationship, and I do not earn up to that figure speculated around. All we want to do is for my wife to come and join me here with her little girl. The prospect of going through all these nightmares is already driving us mad, as she was already denied entry for a visit for last Xmas, on the most frivilous and inconsistent and incomprehensible reasons. Does anyone out there has any advice, please.