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Should London have a special visa status?

Earlier this autumn, Boris Johnson submitted a proposal to the Home Office calling for the introduction of a London visa status. The mayor believes this would see the best applicants given an official endorsement that would speed their entry and help them bypass the often lengthy process of the current visa system.The idea was about attracting the “best and brightest” to London.

Under the plan proposed, London would receive a yearly allocation of 100 of the Government’s 1,000 existing “exceptional talent” visas.

But should London have its own immigration policy ?

Tony Travers, Director of the London School of Economics ‘LSE London Research’ argues that: “the Government’s efforts to restrict the number of new migrants from outside the EU carries with it a serious threat to the capital’s success.

Migration has become such a toxic issue that the political parties’ response to public opinion and Ukip’s electoral threat has lurched towards a logic-blind ‘keep out’ policy.” As pointed out by Mr. Travers, London is a global city with thousands of people coming from across the world to work in its consultancies, banks, theaters, hospitals and a multitude of various other niche industries and skilled occupations. London is also a city whose universities compete directly with leading US ivy-league institutions.

Yet, London universities have recently struggled to get visas for new faculty members, which impacts on their ability to remain competitive and deliver cutting edge research.

Travers argued that: “The Government needs to recognise London’s exceptionalism. This difference, it should be remembered, makes a disproportionate contribution to the UK’s tax coffers. Even if London cannot have its own immigration policy, it needs a sensible UK-wide one.”

Furthermore, Travers added: “It will be hard to sustain internationally competitive businesses if key employees are kept out by an aggressive and inflexible immigration policy. Trade missions led by the PM, the Chancellor and the Mayor will lead to no inward investment if the business people they meet in India, China and elsewhere find the local British embassy has been told to make access to Britain as hard as possible.”

“More than any part of the UK, London has been affected by immigration in the past 15 years. Since the mid-1990s, the city’s overseas-born population has grown by over a million. It is still growing. Few places in the world are so international — and so comfortable with it. And during this recent period, the capital’s economy has proved amazingly resilient, despite the financial crisis.”

Our feelings resonate with his final thoughts that: “London is recognised as one of a handful of competitive, creative and open mega-cities. A major element in this reputation is its capacity to welcome foreigners and to allow them to settle peacefully into a tolerant and dynamic environment. New York does much the same thing. It would be tragic if such success were sacrificed because of the temporary threat posed by anti-immigration sentiment.”

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