Expanded EU results in shake-up of migrant worker system

The Home Office has outlined its plans for a new points-based immigration system for workers from outside the EU who want to work in the UK.

The new system is a central part of the Government’s five-year strategy for asylum and immigration, which was published in February 2005, and is designed to ensure that only those who benefit the UK can come here to work or study.

The plan will consolidate more than 80 existing work and study routes into five tiers:

  • Tier 1 – highly skilled, eg, scientists or entrepreneurs

  • Tier 2 – skilled workers with a job offer, eg, nurses, teachers, engineers

  • Tier 3 – low-skilled workers filling specific temporary labour shortages, (eg, construction workers for a particular project)

  • Tier 4 – students

  • Tier 5 – youth mobility and temporary workers, (eg, working holidaymakers or musicians coming to play a concert).

Points will be awarded to reflect aptitude, experience and age, and consideration will be given to the level of need in any given sector to allow the UK to respond flexibly to changes in the labour market.

Recent research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development showed that a quarter of employers intend to hire migrant workers over the winter period. Around one in 10 UK organisations said they will step up their efforts to recruit migrant workers in 2006.

Public sector employers (26%) and employers in London (35%) are those most likely to recruit migrants.

To support the new system, the government will establish a Skills Advisory Body (SAB) to identify where shortages are most acute and the body will design a single-stage application process.

The SAB will also design a system of sponsorship by employers and educational institutions to ensure compliance.

Home secretary, Charles Clarke, said the work was ongoing and would not take effect overnight.

“A constructive dialogue has already been established between industry and government, which will continue as the system is put in place,” he said.

The Home Office also announced is would end existing low-skilled work routes including the Sectors Based Scheme and the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme, which the department said reflected the fact that labour from the new EU member states was filling many vacancies in these areas.

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