Consultation about new immigration system begins

A major overhaul of migration routes into the UK began today as the government launched a consultation aimed at shoring up the immigration system while tackling skills gaps.

Immigration minister Tony McNulty launched the 16-week consultation, which has been designed to target employers, educational institutions, prospective migrants and the public, to gain feedback on how a new five-tiered system should work in practice.

The government will announce firm proposals for change and a timetable for implementation in the spring of 2006.

The new points-based immigration system would include a web-based self-assessment programme, which would allow applicants, their sponsors and employers to understand whether they meet the UK’s criteria for entry before submitting an application.

Under the scheme, only migrant workers in the top two tiers – skilled and highly-skilled workers – would be allowed to settle in the UK after five years, which has been increased from four.

The government said the new system would ensure the UK attracts the skilled labour force it needs to perform key jobs in areas such as engineering, finance, education and the health service.

Immigration already makes a valuable contribution to our public services, where more than 9% of the workforce is made up of migrants, McNulty said.

“This country needs migration – tourists, students and migrant workers make a vital contribution to the UK economy,” he said. “We need to ensure, however, that while we let in migrants with the skills and talents to benefit Britain, we stop those who are trying to abuse our hospitality and place a burden on our society.”

The five tiers:

Tier 1: Highly skilled workers, investors, entrpeneurs. Will be allowed to settle after 5 years

Tier 2 : Skilled workers in areas of skills shortages, skilled workers with job offers and specific roles that require overseas work. Will be allowed to settle

Tier 3: Low skilled workers such as waiters, agricultural workers and those in food production. Will not be allowed to settle.

Tier 4: Students. Will not be allowed to settle

Tier 5: Working visitors such as Youth Exchanges and Commonwealth Working Holidaymakers. Will not be allowed to settle.

Michael Millar

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