Students are not the only people hurt by the UK’s points-based visa application system. Non-EU citizens who seek employment in the UK are also disadvantaged. The government intends to accomplish three objectives with the new migration control system. First, Gordon Brown’s government wants to curtail the number and type of non-EU citizens working in the UK. Second, the government wants to keep visa holders off the dole. The third government objective is to raise money from visa applications.
The first objective has been publicly stated by the Home Office. The second objective is revealed through a review of the new visa application forms. The points-based system requires all visa applicants to have sufficient funds to support themselves, and any dependants, throughout their stay. Applicants also certify that they will not receive welfare benefits whilst in the UK. The third objective is manifest by hike in visa application fees. For example, unsponsored visa applicants must now pay between £675 and £1020 for the application fee. Sponsored applicants must pay a £265 fee. Even students are required to pay £145 to apply for a visa. Applicants in these three categories who have dependents must pay the same application fee for each dependent. Visa application statistics are sparse for the period since the points-based system was launched, but in the 2006–2007 financial year, the UK government received 2.7 million visa applications. That translates into millions of pounds of revenue for the government.
The concerns underlying the government’s objectives can all be traced to the maladies of the welfare state. Welfare states attract people who are content to live on the dole. The new points-based system cracks down on would-be social loafers from non-EU nations, but European freeloaders are left undeterred. This is especially problematic due to the combination of the UK’s high standard of living and relatively generous welfare benefits. Welfare states are also expensive to run, which explains the high taxes and government fees.
The easy way to eliminate the government’s welfare-based concerns is to do away with the welfare system. That may not be politically practicable at the moment, but an effective compromise would be to pare down welfare benefits to the point that the UK’s dole is much less desirable than welfare programs in other EU nations. This will encourage net negative residents to look elsewhere for government handouts. With fewer freeloaders, many of the government’s immigration concerns will be allayed. The Home Office could then relax its points based system rules to make it easier for industrious, innovative applicants to make positive contributions to the UK economy.