Anyone seeking to enter Britain who is judged “not conducive to the public good” could also be barred under the new criminality rules, a clause that will allow ministers to reject applications from hate preachers or others who might stir up social tensions.
“Because of our EU membership, we have been powerless to stop criminals coming in,” said a source. “It’s about applying UK criminality thresholds to everyone.”
The rules will replace a 2004 EU directive, which ministers believe is not sufficiently strict or specific and has been criticised for preventing the exclusion and deportation of foreign criminals.
Home Office figures show the number of deportation orders served on foreign criminals has dropped by nearly 2,000 – from 5,218 in 2015 to 3,225 last year amid legal challenges over human rights and countries refusing to take them back.
The current EU definition only allows convicted criminals from the EU to be excluded on a case-by-case basis if they present “a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society.”
It also explicitly says “previous criminal convictions shall not in themselves constitute grounds” for excluding or removing EU citizens.
The moves were welcomed by Mark Francois MP, chair of the Conservative’s European Research Group, who said: “One of the advantages of leaving the EU is that it allows us to take back control of our own borders, as approved by Parliament. “This also means we can bar people who may be a danger to public safety from coming here. The Home Secretary should be commended for having progressed this rapidly and thus fulfilling one of the commitments in the Conservative party’s general election manifesto.”
Dr Ben Greening, executive director of Migration Watch, welcomed more consistent rules for deporting foreign criminals but warned: “It is also vital that the provisions once enacted are followed with effective enforcement. Worryingly this has become much too feeble in recent years.”
The points-based immigration system was a centrepiece of Boris Johnson’s election manifesto and aims to force businesses to end their reliance on cheap low-skilled migrants and recruit more British workers – just as unemployment is set to rise after Covid.
Skilled EU and non-EU migrants will have to earn 70 points to be eligible to work in the UK.
50 of those points have to be gained by having a job offer from an approved employer, speaking English and from the prospective job being at the skill level of A-level or above. The remaining 20 points can come from a variety of categories, where skills or qualifications can be “traded” for points to meet the required 70.
Jobs in shortage occupations in the key sectors like the NHS and social care, designated by the Government’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), will also entitle applicants to a further “tradeable” 20 points.
Skilled jobs with salaries of £25,599 or above can earn 20 points, as will a doctorate in a science, technical, engineering or mathematical subject.
On Sunday Ms Patel announced a new “health and care visa”, entitling migrant workers to fast-track, cut-price permission to take up job offers and support to move here with their families.