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Officials checking immigrants' payslips to decide which skilled workers can settle in the UK may have to choose those with salaries of at least £49k.

A new set of recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) suggest that immigration authorities should take into account how much immigrants are paid when deciding whether to let them settle - and the cut-off point could be as high as £49,000.

Skilled workers are allowed into the UK to help fill jobs gaps, but not all are allowed to settle. Under the MAC's suggestions, the recommended minimum threshold will be between £31,000 and £49,000. Those earning above that will get automatic UK citizenship, those underneath will have a harder time.

Sportspeople will not be exempt from the pay restrictions. The new criterion will inevitably work against people working in less well-paid fields, such as nursing, though it won't be the only criterion in settlement decisions.

The restriction doesn't apply to migrants who show exceptional talent (described as Tier 1 immigrants) - they will be allowed to get settlement rights five years after they enter the country, providing they still show proof of exceptional talent.

Reducing the settlement rights for skilled workers means that the government and businesses will have to work together to fill up the skills gap that will be created, said the MAC statement:

The effects of any change will not be fully felt until 2016. This will allow time for employers and government to work together to up-skill the UK workforce in those occupations most affected.

In a separate point, they argued that Britain shouldn't relax employment restrictions on workers from Bulgaria or Romania as letting in a flood of workers from these areas would cause disruption to UK labour. ®

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