The Home Office today published proposals for much tighter skilled and temporary worker tiers of its new Points Based System (PBS). The schemes – known as Tier 2 and Tier 5 – sweep aside around 30 different routes to the UK, including the old work permit system.
British-based companies will have to prove they cannot fill skilled posts with a resident worker and must show that the job vacancy has been advertised in the UK. Would-be migrants will need a job offer before they even apply for a visa, unless the job is on the shortage occupation list.
To qualify, skilled foreign nationals will have to earn a certain number of points before being allowed to work in Britain. These points are awarded only if a person can prove they will be doing skilled work, speak a good standard of English, and are earning more than £24,000, or have a decent qualification. Employers will need a licence from the UK Border Agency to offer jobs to skilled workers.
Alongside today's proposals, Home Office analysis showed if the tighter Tier 2 and 5 rules had been in place last year, close to ten per cent fewer skilled and temporary migrants from outside the EEA would have been allowed into Britain to work in equivalent categories – around 20,000 people. In addition the Home Office confirmed that from this year low skilled workers from outside the EU will be barred.
Border and Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said:
"Our new points system means that British jobseekers get the first crack of the whip and that only the skilled migrants we actually need will be able to come.
"By moving points up or down, we can make sure the numbers we allow in to the UK are in line with the needs of business and the country as a whole.
"When we set the points pass mark, we will listen to independent advice – the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) on the needs of the economy, and the Migration Impacts Forum (MIF) on the effect of migration on society."
Employers who break the rules and employ illegal workers are already facing much tougher sanctions.
Figures released by the Home Office today show that in the first 80 days of the new illegal working regime – introduced at the end of February this year – 137 businesses were issued with Notices of Potential Liability worth almost half a million pounds. Under the old regime there were only 11 successful prosecutions last year. This means that the number facing punishment since the regime began is more than ten times greater than the entire number of prosecutions last year.
Civil penalties were introduced to make it easier than ever to fine those employers who give jobs to people with no right to work without carrying out the proper checks.
Liam Byrne said:
"Illegal jobs are the root cause of illegal immigration, which is why I'm determined to shut it down. In 2007 we carried out 40 per cent more illegal working operations than the previous year – and frontline officers have new powers to levy on-the-spot fines.
"These fines make up just one part of the biggest shake-up of the immigration system for a generation. With the introduction of compulsory identity cards for foreign nationals later in the year, there can be no excuse for not checking the identity of those applying for jobs."
The Government also today revealed its proposals for Tier 5 of the PBS which covers those travelling temporarily to the UK for primarily non-economic reasons, such as sportspeople, entertainers and charity workers. To ensure entertainers continue to contribute to British cultural life, those coming to the UK for permit-free gigs or festivals – such as the Edinburgh Fringe – will be assessed outside of the PBS under visitor visa rules. The Government is due to publish details of the new visitor visa category in the near future.