The RIBA has branded the government’s proposed new immigration rules ‘a disaster for the architecture sector’
The much-anticipated white paper, which has just been put out to consultation, has been billed as a ‘single system that welcomes talent, hard work, and the skills we need as a country’.
Although the rules promise to remove the cap on the number of skilled worker visas, the institute has condemned proposals for a minimum salary requirement of £30,000 for skilled migrants seeking five-year visas.
RIBA chief executive Alan Vallance said: ’A £30,000 salary threshold would be a disaster for the architecture sector, locking out talented international architects at the start of their career.
‘The RIBA will make that point forcefully in the consultation and we hope that the government will see sense. We need a new attitude to migration rather than just a rebranding.
‘That needs to start with greater recognition from our politicians about the benefits that migration has bought the UK and the importance of non-UK talent to past, current and future economic growth.’
Vallance added that the government’s dawdling over the white paper, which sets out the planned new laws before formalisation in a government bill, had already had a heavy impact on the profession.
‘The long delay in publishing this white paper has seen investment plans and projects put on hold and EU architects – one in four of the UK architecture workforce – left in limbo,’ he added.
Other moves outlined in the document include proposals for low-skilled workers to be able to apply for short-term visas of up to a year. Set for a phased introduction from 2012, the white paper also says short-term visitors from the EU will not require visas.
The replacement immigration system will become part of post-Brexit trade talks, with prime minister Theresa May repeatedly stating that there would be an end to free movement.
But the new rules could, according to home secretary Sajid Javid, come into force whether there is EU Brexit deal or not.
The white paper comes just a week after the government launched a separate way for highly rated architects from overseas to secure the right to work in the UK
The Home Office announced on 9 December it had added architecture to the list of creative professions eligible for Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visas.
Due to come into effect on 10 January 2019, this change to the official Immigration Rules will allow successful applicants from abroad to stay in the UK for up to five years and four months.
First they will have to pass an RIBA assessment, proving they have established themselves as an ‘internationally recognised expert within the field of architecture’.
The government will also be issuing ‘exceptional promise’ visas to those with the potential to become ‘a leader in the field’.
Just 2,000 Tier 1 visas will be available in the 12 months from April 2019, to be shared across all eligible professions. Successful applicants can apply to settle permanently in the UK after three years if endorsed under ‘talent’ criteria, or five years if endorsed for ‘promise’.
But Invisible Studio founder Piers Taylor – who earlier this year sent an open letter to prime minister Theresa May over Brexit – described the ‘exceptional talent’ rules as ‘meaningless’.
He said: ‘It’s one size fits all, it will corporatise the industry, and in any case allows far too few overseas architects to enter.’