The ‘best and brightest’: What tier 2 visa requirements say about the discourse on migration – Imogen Baylis

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“Talking about migrants and immigrants is one of the ways that stories of nationalism are told. When we have public debates on who should be ‘allowed in’ and who should not, we are also debating who we think is ‘like us’, a conversation which takes on a very symbolic nature, given that we only have very very loose connections to most people in the UK; or who deserves to be here, particularly with the ‘best and the brightest’ rhetoric that we hear.

If we take, for example, the salary and savings requirements for people migrating to the UK. These are seemingly pragmatic, as they require migrants to demonstrate that they can support themselves once in the UK. But they also create the narrative that the UK is wealthy and only wealthy people ‘like us’ should be allowed to live here.

The salary requirement for people applying for a Tier 2 visa, the general working visa for people living outside the European Economic Area, is £30,000. This creates one set of rules for British citizens and another for immigrants. For comparison, the average salary in the UK is around £24,000, and a gross annual salary of the hourly minimum wage (£7.83) is just over £15,200. There are also categories of workers for whom the salary requirements are much lower (£20,800) such as radiographers, nurses, secondary teachers in certain subjects, and paramedics.

If the government thinks it is possible to support oneself on £15,200, why is the Tier 2 salary requirement so high?

The justification is usually to ensure that migrants do not then become reliant on the welfare state. But why would immigrants need so much more money to avoid becoming reliant than British citizens do?

What are the implications of this disparity? What does it say about the way that immigrants are thought of or talked about?”

– Imogen Baylis, Coventry University