Ukip would ban unskilled immigrants from working in Britain for five years and set up a new migration control watchdog to bring down overall numbers, Nigel Farage will say on Wednesday.
In a speech in central London, the Ukip leader will set out his core offering to the electorate on immigration, arguing that no other party can be trusted on the issue.
Farage will be hoping to keep the issue of immigration in the headlines, as David Cameron has been criticised for missing his target of getting net migration below the tens of thousands a year during this parliament.
The most recent figures released last week showed net migration was almost 300,000, allowing Ukip and Labour to pour scorn on Cameron’s pledge to reduce net migration to below 100,000 with “no ifs, no buts”.
Ukip had previously said it wanted a five-year moratorium on all immigration, but then instead started talking about having an Australian point-style system that allows people in on the basis of their skills.
The proposals due to be put forward by Farage on Wednesday appear to be a mixture of the two.
He advocates a moratorium on unskilled worker visas for five years and a points-based system allowing in highly-skilled workers with visas valid for up to five years. New arrivals would have to have private health insurance and not be allowed to claim any benefit for that period.
After that, those who qualify for highly-skilled worker visas would be permitted to apply for permanent leave to remain “provided they have obeyed the law”.
On Tuesday night, Farage said the current system was “unsustainable, unfair and unethical”, given that it gives preference to EU migrants over those from outside Europe.
“The British public has acknowledged that they can’t trust the other parties to be serious on immigration,” he said. “Despite Mr Cameron’s pledge, net migration is now up to 300,000 people per year.
“That’s why Ukip has developed a policy focused around an Australian-style points-based system, led by a newly formed Migration Control Commission, tasked with bringing numbers down, and focusing on highly-skilled migrants and our Commonwealth friends – as opposed to the low-skilled, eastern European migration that the Tories and Labour have expanded.”
Despite Ukip’s dislike of new quangos, it would set up a Migration Control Commission with a remit to bring down net immigration and the moratorium on unskilled workers would be reviewed annually.
The party would also increase border staff by 2,500 and categorically rule out any amnesty on illegal immigration.
Although Ukip has ruled out joining any coalition and is only likely to get a handful of seats, the other parties will be carefully watching its immigration policy because of the potential impact of Farage’s party in key marginals.
The Conservatives argue that a vote for Farage could help let in Ed Miliband, while Labour is trying to cast the party as “more Tory than the Tories”.
Farage himself has declined to predict how many seats Ukip will win, apart from saying it will be more than people think.
However, he has forecast his party will take second place across much of England, where the Conservatives are weak in the north and Labour absent in the south.
Ukip will be hoping to regain some momentum with its immigration policy announcement after polls suggested the party may have lost ground to the mainstream parties in recent weeks.
Last week, new research by ComRes and ITV showed the party was more trusted than the others on the issue of immigration but 44% of people thought Ukip was racist – an increase of 12 points in the last year – perhaps in the aftermath of the BBC documentary showing a councillor in Kent being expelled for saying she did not like “negroid” features.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010