The overall cost of a UK visa for Indian and non-EU citizens will rise from Tuesday as part of plans to raise the immigration health surcharge (IHS), which is payable when students, professionals and family members apply for the visa. The IHS, introduced in 2015, enables migrants to access the National Health Service (NHS) during their stay in the UK. Since 2015, the surcharge has raised over £600 million from Indian and non-EU citizens with UK visas valid for over six months.
Apart from raising the IHS, Britain also plans a host of other measures to reduce the number of migrants' intake, and include them solely on the basis of merit.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said visas would be introduced for EU nationals arriving after Britain leaves the bloc and the new system would be based on skills, not nationality, putting EU and non-EU citizens on the same footing.
"It will be a system that will bring net migration down to more sustainable levels," he said to a foreign media, although he added that there was "no specific target" for the reduction.
He said he hoped the new measures would put more pressure on employers "to look at the domestic workforce first".
Javid did not commit to an annual salary threshold for EU immigrants - a highly contested proposal - but said it could be "30,000 pounds (USD 38,000) or thereabouts".
He said the threshold could be lowered to encourage foreign students to stay and work in the UK and for certain parts of the economy in which a labour shortage could be proven.
Many employers, including the National Health Service, have warned that 30,000 pounds is too high and will severely limit their ability to hire EU nationals such as nurses. The immigration proposals are aimed at winning over Brexit hardliners who have resisted voting in favour of the deal that Prime Minister Theresa May has struck with EU leaders.
But they will cause anger in parts of Britain, such as London, that have benefited from EU immigration. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the government's approach was "misguided" and "risks doing profound damage to growth, jobs and communities across London and the UK".
May has vowed to end free movement of people from Europe, saying that this was one of the main reasons that Britons voted to leave the European Union in a 2016 referendum.
Immigration levels have already fallen since the Brexit referendum. Net migration to Britain was around 280,000 last year, a decrease from levels of more than 300,000 in 2014 and 2015.
(With inputs from PTI)