We are restoring order to our immigration system to bring annual net migration down to the tens of thousands – rather than the hundreds of thousands we saw under Labour – by the end of this Parliament. We have capped economic migration, reformed the student visa system, and we're changing the family visa rules. We have made reforms at our borders, to ensure they are safe and secure.
The bigger picture
• Our annual limit on non-EU economic migration will not only help reduce immigration to sustainable levels but will protect those businesses and institutions that are vital to our economy. The new system was designed in consultation with business. Employers should look first to people who are out of work and who are already in this country.
• A properly controlled and regulated student visa system is a crucial component of our policy to reduce and control net migration. That is why we have radically reformed student visas to weed out abuse and tackle bogus colleges. And our reforms are starting to take effect: in the year to June 2012, there was a thirty per cent decrease in the number of student visas issued compared to the year to June 2011.
• We welcome those who wish to make a life in the UK with their family, work hard and make a contribution but a family life must not be established here at the taxpayer's expense. To play a full part in British life, family migrants must be able to integrate – that means they must speak our language and pay their way. This is fair to applicants, but also fair to the public.
• The Government's priority is the security of the UK border. The right checks need to be carried out to control immigration, protect against terrorism and tackle crime. We are maintaining thorough border checks. And despite those robust checks, the vast majority of passengers pass through immigration control quickly.
Capping non-EU economic migration
Action to date
• We have capped the number of people employers are allowed to bring to the UK from outside the EU to work in skilled professions.
• We have restricted immigration for highly skilled workers to all but entrepreneurs, investors and people of exceptional talent.
• We have broken the link between coming here to work and staying forever by introducing a new minimum pay threshold which means only the brightest and best workers who strengthen the UK economy will be able to apply to stay in the UK permanently.
• We will annually review the level of the cap to ensure it is set at the right level.
Reforming the student route of migration to ensure only genuine students come here
Action to date
• We have placed a requirement on any educational institution which wants to sponsor students to meet tough requirements, and become accredited by a statutory education inspection body. The previous loose system allowed too many poor-quality colleges to become sponsors.
• We have introduced a new language requirement for students coming to study at degree level at the 'upper intermediate' level, rather than the previous 'lower intermediate' requirement.
• We have empowered UK Border Agency staff to refuse entry to students who cannot speak English without an interpreter, and who therefore clearly do not meet the minimum standard.
• We have limited the overall time that can be spent on a student visa to three years at lower levels and five years at higher levels. Previously there was no time limit for study at or above degree level.
• We have closed the Post-study work route, which allows students two years to seek employment after their course ends. Only graduates who have an offer of a skilled job from a sponsoring employer can stay to work.
• Figures show that the number of student visas issued fell by 30 per cent in the year to June 2012.
Reforming the family route of migration
Action to date
• We have set an earning threshold of £18,600 for anyone wanting to bring in a spouse or partner from outside Europe.
• We are restricting those non-European Economic Area adults and elderly dependent relatives who can settle in the UK to those who can demonstrate that, as a result of age, illness or disability, they require long-term personal care that can only be provided in the UK by their relative here, and requiring them to apply from overseas.
• We have introduced a legal requirement that all applicants for settlement to speak better English and pass the Life in the UK Test.
• We have introduced a minimum probationary period of five years for settlement to deter sham marriages.
Tightening up our border controls to ensure a secure and efficient border
Action to date
• We have begun the roll-out of the E-borders system, which monitors people coming in and out of the country, to ensure that all non-European Economic Area passengers arriving from outside Europe have been checked once, and many twice, while they are still thousands of miles from our passport controls.
• We have separated the Border Force from UKBA to become a separate operational command, with its own ethos of law enforcement, led by its own director general and accountable directly to Ministers.
• We have opened a new Control Room at Heathrow airport which allows border staff access to real-time modelling of arrivals and passenger numbers, speeding-up reaction to 'bunching', where several flights arrive at once, and late-arriving or early-departing flights, which often cause delays at immigration.
• We will complete the roll-out of E-borders.