Immigration Cap - Home Affairs Committee Contents

5  Dependants

68. Under Tiers 1 and 2 immigrants are able to bring spouses and dependant children to the UK. The UK Border Agency consultation asked whether the cap should apply to dependants as well as main applicants, although it further stated that the Government has no current plans to change existing policy for dependants.[98] The ratio of main applicants to dependants under Tiers 1 and 2 has been in the order of 5:4, meaning that dependants account for almost half of non-EEA economic immigrant visas (see table 4). Migration Watch argued that dependants should be included in the cap: its Chairman, Sir Andrew Green, told us "we're talking population so we have to include dependants, but you have to set the cap knowing that you've included dependants".[99] Professor Metcalf agreed that dependants would have to be included in some form:

    to reach the tens of thousands from the hundreds of thousands, you've got to be thinking about dependants. You cannot leave them out of the equation. When you do your cap, you can do it on the main people and assume that the ratio will be five main and four dependants, or you can do it in total and include the dependants...If you have 20,000 main people and 18,000 dependants, you can operate the cap 20,000 main or 38,000 total.[100]

69. However, other witnesses argued that it could be economically unsound as well as unfair in principle to include dependants in the cap. The Immigration Law Practitioners' Association argued against their inclusion, on the grounds that "measuring the effects of the cap and adjusting it to the needs of the economy becomes complex if not impossible if some included in the limit are skilled workers and others babies". It suggested that the inclusion of dependants would risk discrimination on the grounds of age and gender. It also noted that treating migrants differently on the grounds of marital status or having children might risk engaging Articles 8 and 12, read with Article 14, of the European Convention of Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998, which protected the rights to respect for family and private life, and to marry and found a family.[101] Professor Metcalf told us:

    We've agonised about this issue because by definition in a cap world a dependant displaces a worker and, therefore, it raises very delicate issues. I don't think one wants to be saying to people, "well, you can't bring dependants". Indeed, it would almost certainly not be lawful.[102]

70. The British Hospitality Association raised the question of whether dependants who joined an immigrant at a later stage would contribute towards the cap for the period in which they arrived, subsequent to the period of the main applicant. This could raise awkward questions about dependants 'taking away' visa allocation from skilled immigrants in a later period. [103]

71. Under Tiers 1 and 2 there have been approximately the same number of main applicants and dependants, a ratio of 5:4. The immigration figures cited by the Government include dependants, indicating that, if it is to meet its target of reducing immigration to 'tens of thousands', dependants will have to be accounted for in some form. As Professor Metcalf set out, a cap could either be applied to main applicants— with the assumption that there will be approximately the same number again of dependants—or to the combined total of main applicants and dependants.

72. The evidence we received argued against applying the cap directly to dependants, since a dependant might displace a main applicant whose skills were needed, and we are pleased that the Government has stated it has no plans to change the policy towards dependants. We therefore recommend that Tier 1 and 2 limits should apply to main applicants only, and we recognise that the cap will consequently only represent half of the total number of immigrants being issued with visas. The Government must make explicit the way in which dependants will be counted in contributing to the overall reduction in immigrants, and make its policy clear to the public.

98   UK Border Agency, Limits on non-EU economic migration: a consultation, June 2010, p 10 Back

99   Q 270 and Ev 50 Back

100   Q 157 Back

101   Ev 56 Back

102   Q 156 Back

103   Ev w29 Back

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