- Students’ Column
- War and Military
President Donald Trump appears not to be backing down with his “America First” immigration policy which whilst currently focussed on illegal immigration has the import of trade and skills lurking somewhere behind. With several failed attempts to get his immigration ban on people travelling from seven predominantly Muslim countries through and “the wall” still high on his agenda what impact is this hard stance on immigration having on the immigration policies of the rest of the world and in particular on the “special friendship” between the USA and the UK?
According to British government figures there are 181,000 US-born people living and working in the UK and 758,000 British citizens in the USA. Knowing President Trump’s ambitions for heavy restrictions on all immigration to the US and the potential impact of the UK leaving the European Union, when Prime Minister, Theresa May visited the US recently she was keen to push her agenda to actually grow UK/US migration. Her ambition is to agree an approach that would link highly skilled migration to any future successful trade deal – in line with her recent discussions with Australia. This would be good news for US businesses reliant on the import of foreign skills but it is more likely that this approach only supports the status quo – whether anyone is strong enough to tempt Trump to actually grow migration only time will tell.
If agreeable however the movement of people as part of a free trade negotiation could mean that US citizens have more freedom and flexibility to enter the UK, particularly if it is for business. The current system requires that a visa application and financial criteria be met depending on what type of visa is being sought. For those wishing to secure an indefinite leave to remain you will probably need a good immigration lawyer just to get through the red tape. If Theresa May’s proposals get the green light however some of this process might be relaxed meaning increased movement both ways.
However, the danger is that this type of immigration policy would support businesspeople and the most highly skilled along similar lines of the old “kith and kin” approach which favoured predominantly white countries – the old boy network of the Commonwealth.
In fact the UK, like the US has pledged to cut the number of people entering the country from countries like India, China, Pakistan, Africa and Eastern Europe and has placed immigration at the very heart of its post-Brexit negotiations. Yet it seeks to increase migration with countries like the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada in the name of free trade.
So it appears that President Trump isn’t the only leader that has a black and white approach to immigration. His meteoric rise to power seems to have opened old wounds of race, class and religion that might struggle to heal again if countries like the UK also begin to shape policy based on this inconsistent thinking.
If you are planning to travel to the UK you would do well to check out advice from the British Embassy in Washington.