The countdown to the transformation of the immigration system began today when the Home Secretary announced new rules for highly skilled foreign workers applying to come to the UK.
In a wide ranging speech at the London School of Economics, the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced changes to the UK's immigration regime to ensure the system is firm but fair and supports Britain's shared values.
The proposals published today include: plans to ensure that migrants can integrate into communities through strengthened requirements for English language; plans to ensure all migrants play by the rules with strengthened restrictions on citizenship for those who break the law and protection for vulnerable people through measures to combat forced marriage.
The Government's Australian-style Points Based System and the new independent Migration Advisory Committee, which will meet for the first time on 7 December, will provide new, robust machinery to ensure that only those who meet the needs of the UK will be allowed to enter and work.
The statement of intent for Tier 1 shows how the new tier will replace eight existing immigration routes for people who are highly skilled, entrepreneurs, investors or have undertaken studies to a high level and want to stay in the UK to work. Applicants will earn points for their skills and the potential they show for economic success, competence in English language and ability to support themselves and their dependents.
New measures to help to protect the vulnerable from being pressurised into forced marriage were proposed by the Home Office in a consultation published today. Proposals include raising the minimum age at which people can come to this country for marriage from 18 to 21. A separate consultation, also published today seeks views on the introduction of an English language test before entry for people applying for a spouse visa to help to encourage successful integration.
A reform of the system was also announced to make it even harder for foreigners with criminal convictions to ever become British. Under new guidance, which will apply from 1 January 2008, it will be made absolutely clear that people with an unspent conviction will normally be refused nationality.