A new poll shows majority support in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Britain for reciprocal rights to live and work freely in each other's nations.

The poll's release yesterday came as new measures were about to take effect to tighten working rights in the UK for citizens of non-European Union countries.

The poll, commissioned by the Royal Commonwealth Society, shows 70 per cent of Australians, 82 per cent of New Zealanders, 75 per cent of Canadians and 58 per cent of Britons support free mobility between their nations.

The British Government is moving in the opposite direction, however, under public pressure to stem migrant numbers following an influx in recent years, particularly from eastern Europe.


EU rules limit what the UK Government can do to curb migration from EU countries so measures to close the door are hitting non-EU migration the hardest.

From April, non-Europeans on tier two employer-sponsored skilled-worker visas will have to earn at least £35,000 ($73,430) a year to be allowed to stay in the UK for longer than six years.

Some skilled workers such as nurses, who earn an average salary of around £23,000, may have to head to the airport after six years working and paying taxes in the UK.

Also from April, non-European workers in the UK will have to pay an annual National Health Service surcharge of £200 or £150 if on student or two-year youth mobility visas. New Zealand is unhappy with the proposed changes. Prime Minister John Key has said the health surcharge was "chipping away" at Kiwis' rights in the UK.

Australian High Commissioner in London Alexander Downer says the Australian business community is concerned Australians will be restricted from working in Britain. "Certainly if people were being driven out because they weren't earning enough then that would be seen as unreasonably discriminatory."

Royal Commonwealth Society president David Howell, a Conservative member of the House of Lords, said pressure was building within the Government to stop blocking access for citizens of Commonwealth nations.

"Far from restricting Commonwealth exchange and movement between our countries, we've got to ease it. I don't say this battle is settled yet but it's a battle that's going on," Lord Howell said.