Sajid Javid: Immigration is vital so UK must be ‘truly welcoming’

Immigration has been vital to Scotland, writes Home Secretary Sajid Javid, as he develops a new system based on “fairness and compassion” and designed to ensure the UK remains a “truly welcoming nation”.
A piper welcomes the first Hainan Airlines flight as it lands at Edinburgh Airport after a flight direct from Chinas capital Beijing (Picture: Ian Georgeson)A piper welcomes the first Hainan Airlines flight as it lands at Edinburgh Airport after a flight direct from Chinas capital Beijing (Picture: Ian Georgeson)
A piper welcomes the first Hainan Airlines flight as it lands at Edinburgh Airport after a flight direct from Chinas capital Beijing (Picture: Ian Georgeson)

Immigration has made huge contributions to our society, culture and economy.

I saw how hard my dad worked after arriving in this country from Pakistan with just £1 in his pocket.

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My parents worked tirelessly to build their own business – the market stall where I first learnt how to cut a deal.

And I know that immigration has made a vital contribution to Scotland, particularly to rural and island communities.

Regardless of which side of the Brexit debate you fall on, our departure from the EU presents us with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape our immigration system for the better.

Last year I announced plans for a new immigration system built around skills and what people can contribute – rather than where they come from. I want it to work in the best interests of the whole of the UK. That’s why I was in Aberdeen yesterday to discuss this directly with businesses.

I want to explain why I think this ambitious and pro-business blueprint will drive up wages and boost the Scottish economy.

We will scrap the cap on the number of skilled professionals who can come to Scotland. We will also abolish the outdated requirement to advertise jobs in the UK for a month before hiring from overseas for highly skilled workers.

This means that hospitals, oil rigs, banks, tech firms and other organisations will be able to access the talent and skills they need from all corners of the world.

As part of our new system, we will widen the definition of skilled workers to allow more people who will add value to our businesses and economy to be eligible to enter. Anyone with the equivalent of Scottish Highers will be eligible to apply under the new skilled workers route.

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And there will continue to be no limit on the number of international students who can come to study at Scotland’s world-class universities – such as St Andrews, which was ranked in the UK’s top three universities just a few days ago.

It’s vital we have a constant pool of foreign talent coming into the country, which is why we are introducing measures to make our universities even more attractive for prospective students. Under the new scheme, undergrads and postgrads studying at Scottish universities will be able to stay for six months after finishing their degrees to find work. Those who have completed a PhD will be able to stay for a year.

As part of this ambitious plan, we are speaking to businesses, employers and partners right across Scotland to listen and ensure the new immigration system works for them.

Yesterday in Aberdeen, I spoke to business leaders from the thriving industries of energy, fishing and agriculture. We’ve met hundreds of stakeholders so far this year, and we will have met thousands by the time we introduce the new immigration system in 2021. We’ve also set up advisory groups, involving the Scottish Government, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Universities Scotland and others. We have had detailed discussions about how this will work in practice.

Although 2021 may seem like a long way off, I’ve already made changes to make the UK more welcoming since becoming Home Secretary a year ago. I removed the cap on doctors and nurses coming to the UK so our NHS could recruit as many as they need – creating thousands of extra places for other sectors too.

I announced reforms to help the most innovative entrepreneurs and investors come to Scotland and elsewhere in the UK. And I’ve made it easier for top architects and international researchers to bring their expertise.

We’re also making it quicker for tourists arriving at Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports to enter by introducing by the summer of this year e-Gates for travellers from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States, which allow visitors to pass quickly and securely through border controls.

We remain a truly welcoming nation – and that welcome extends to the more than 220,000 EU nationals who have made Scotland their home. We’re helping to protect their rights through the EU Settlement Scheme, which we have made as easy as possible to use.

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These people are our friends, neighbours and colleagues. We want them to stay and are doing everything in our power to get it right.

Scotland also has a proud heritage and has a long history of being an open and welcoming nation as well as a trading nation. It exports products which are in global demand, from Scotch whisky to Scottish salmon and much more.

I believe the new immigration system will help Scotland invest in the skills it needs to continue to thrive, driving productivity because it is built around the skills that people bring – not where they come from.

It will have fairness and compassion at its heart, and I am confident that it will ensure Scotland continues to prosper for many years to come.