Unused check-in desks at Heathrow airport.

Heathrow airport Terminal 5 in west London. Figures last month showed annual net migration to the United Kingdom hit a record of 745,000 in 2022.


How the UK's new migration rules will affect Kenyans

Kenyans who want to migrate to the United Kingdom and bring their families with them may have to rethink or pay more to qualify for the privilege.

The new rules are contained in a five-point plan unveiled by Britain's Home Secretary James Cleverly to curb immigration, which he says is "too high".

One of the rules that could directly affect Kenyans is the requirement for proof of income of more than Sh7 million a year for a family to be allowed to emigrate to the UK. 

"We will increase the earnings threshold by a third to £38,700 ($48712, Ksh7,467,549) from next spring for those using the skilled worker route, in line with the median full-time wage for this type of work," Cleverly said in the five-point plan unveiled in the UK House of Commons on Monday.

"We will more than double the minimum income for family visas to £38,700 - the same as the minimum salary threshold for skilled workers." It was previously £26,200.

At least 136,000 Kenyans live and work in the UK, according to official figures, although the number could be as high as 200,000, including those on short stays or who overstay. Those already in the UK legally will not be affected, but new arrivals, including their family members who have yet to apply for visas, will face the new rules.

The UK argues that the migrants are putting a strain on its domestic capacity to serve the public, even though it has previously signed labour import agreements with countries such as Kenya.

A memorandum of understanding signed between Kenya and the UK in July 2021 provided for up to 20,000 nurses from Kenya to work in UK hospitals, provided they met a strict set of standards, including relearning English. So far, around 95 such nurses have signed up, but they will now find it harder if they decide to bring their children or spouses to the UK.

"We will stop overseas care workers bringing family members and require care companies in England to be registered with the Care Quality Commission to sponsor visas. It is estimated that this change will reduce arrivals through this route by more than 20 per cent by 2024-25," the plan says.

Recently, UK border officials were criticised after refusing a visa to the daughter of Kenyan academic Doseline Kiguru. Dr Kiguru, an expert in world literature, had been offered a job at Bristol University in the UK and wanted to bring her daughter with her. Officials rejected the application, saying there were "no compassionate grounds" to reunite her with her child, according to a report in the Guardian last month.

Under the new rules, students will also be restricted from bringing in family members, and the Migration Advisory Committee will also review the graduate route.

Overall, local employers will also be restricted from hiring directly from abroad before first exhausting domestic labour sources. The UK will end cheap labour from overseas by ending the 20 per cent discount on the going rate for shortage occupations and reforming the Shortage Occupation List, a specific list of occupations where foreign workers are needed to fill gaps. Truck drivers, nurses and other care workers are sometimes on this list.

The new rules are part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's controversial bid to rid the UK of both illegal and overstaying immigrants. The UK has also signed a new migration deal with Rwanda, replacing one struck down by the courts last month, to allow the deportation of illegal immigrants arriving by boat to Rwanda.

The UK expects this to reduce arrivals by at least 300,000.