Professor Gary Becker, a Nobel prize-winning economist, will argue that immigrants should pay for the right to settle in Britain and the United States. Professor Gary Becker will say that it would be up to individual governments to set a price, adding that a charge of $50,000 (£34,000) per immigrant could generate $50bn a year in the US.
The same sum could generate about £17bn a year in Britain, based on Office for National Statistics data which showed 503,000 immigrants arrived between October 2008 and September 2009.
“What the government would do is set a price, and the price would be determined by how many people they would like to admit, and then they would allow everyone to come in who could pay that price, aside from obvious exceptions like terrorists,” he told The Daily Telegraph before delivering the 19th Institute of Economic Affairs Annual Hayek Memorial Lecture in London.
The American economist said that as well as being a revenue raiser for governments at a time of record deficits, the policy would ensure that only the most productive and committed immigrants were attracted, at a time when the present system was not working in countries including the UK and the US.
“If you were just coming temporarily it wouldn’t be worth paying the price, so you’d get people committed to becoming British, or an American, or whatever it may be.”
Professor Becker, who teaches at the University of Chicago and won the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Science in 1992, said the most skilled immigrants would still be attracted, because they would be able to generate the highest returns from their investment in the entry fee.
He said the programme would also reduce opposition to immigration, by eliminating the sense that immigrants were getting “a free ride”. He will argue that a government loan system should be introduced to ensure that young, ambitious people could borrow the entry fee and pay it back over time.
“Usually governments are encouraged to make more radical changes when they decide that things are pretty bad and the present solutions aren’t working. That’s the situation the UK is finding itself in, the US is finding itself in, and Germany, Scandinavia, and other countries,” Mr Becker said.