I have lived in the UK for what will be 9 years in September. I studied for 5 of those years and worked for four. I completed a PhD, organised international conferences, published papers, spoke across the UK and internationally, and taught for about 7 years. I was also the first Wikimedian in Residence in Scotland, and must have done a reasonably good job at it as my contract was extended several times and I was invited to speak about the work I was doing around Scotland and in Europe.
But this year the UK government brings into law a salary threshold test which means that non-EU workers must earn over £35,000 a year after 5 years of working in the UK or be deported.
I would hope that I would be considered highly skilled and employable – certainly I have spent nearly a decade contributing to the UK economy and society. I have also made connections, instigated projects, and generally built a life here. This has become my home, where I have spent a third of my life and the majority of my adulthood. However, whether the result of pursuing an academic career or because of the economic crisis (I suspect the latter significantly altering the former), my work life has been a constant series of short-term contracts, project-based funding, and similar temporary jobs.
In an attempt to be able to stay in the UK, to reach the 10 year mark and obtain leave to remain, I even left academia and have taken up a full-time position as a Digital Media Officer. But I just couldn’t stay ahead of the increasingly nasty immigration laws. My unique skillset does not qualify me for a work visa, and even if it did, I would not be able to obtain leave to remain after 10 years because my salary is far below £35,000p/a.
I’m tired of fighting. I want to stay here. I want to contribute, pay taxes, be a part of the city and the community that I love. But there’s only so long that a person can live within 18 month windows of security, constantly fretting about the next immigration policy, the next visa application, the next hurdle. And I am a white, middle-class, highly educated woman who speaks English as a first language: if I find the fight exhausting, I can’t imagine what it would be like if I weren’t any or all of these things.
To me, the idea that immigration is a one-in, one-out system is ridiculous. Respected economists have proof that immigration is economically beneficial, that it creates jobs, adds to social security pots, does the exact opposite of everything that the Daily Mail or Theresa May or Nigel Farage claim it does. Here in Scotland, immigration caps and salary requirements will have an even more detrimental effect as nurses, teachers, and people working in a range of essential services will not meet the £35,000 mark.
You never know who is going to be the next Steve Jobs. You don’t know who is going to launch the next Google, or create the next Wikipedia. There is nothing behind this policy other than ignorance, prejudice, and fear. Please don’t let those qualities be what defines this country.