The proposed points system to be imposed on UK visa applicants after the end of this year has been published, and as it stands it seems rather tough. It will be difficult to secure the right to stay in the UK unless one is rather well qualified, and has a job fixed up in science, technology, engineering or maths. So basically a job in the electronic industries, pharmaceuticals, bridge- and tunnel-building, and research/teaching posts at Oxbridge. Possibly also in a 'shortage sector', which (I'm guessing) could cover any occupation perceived to be short of good-quality professionals, and it must have a wider scope than so far revealed. For instance, the top foreign talent in football, film-making and ballet must surely qualify under this provision.
People I've spoken with all think the government have merely unveiled the bare bones of a much more complicated system. They say it will have to let in hundreds of thousands of lower-qualified workers - and their families - who don't meet the exacting headline criteria.
It's early days yet. I dare say the points system will evolve over the next few months.
Meanwhile, it's disquieting to reflect that if ever I went abroad on a basis that deprived me of an automatic right of re-entry into the UK - let's set aside for the moment how that could happen - I think I'd be hard-put to qualify for a visa under this new points system.
Assuming one is of good character and not (for instance) a criminal or a terrorist, an applicant needs 70 points.
I'd get 10 points for speaking English. Of course, I'm often misunderstood; but I put that down to my Anglo-Welsh upbringing and an accent some people find odd or difficult. But yes, 10 big fat points.
So far, the Immigration Officials are smiling and beckoning me on. But not for long.
I might not get 20 points for my level of income. I have a guaranteed, inflation-proofed pension income - it's the total of my government pension plus the State Pension - and it amply exceeds the required £25,600 per annum. But it isn't pay from skilled employment with an approved sponsor. I'm one of the so-called 'economically inactive', and I rather think pensions won't count. So nul points.
Nor am I well-qualified. I've got three good A-Levels - I still have the pristine certificates in Geography, English Literature and Art - but the exams were sat almost fifty years ago. And I didn't go on to university (my personal act of rebellion against a school system I hated and despised). So there's no PhD to earn me a further 10 points - or 20 if it was in science, technology. engineering or maths. Nul points again.
Whoops. Only 10 points. Or 30 points, if they will allow my pensions as qualifying income.
But not 70. They are showing me the door. No, worse: they are marching me off to a holding cage, pending deportation. Nightmare.