Highly skilled migrant programme update

The Highly Skilled Migrant Programme marked its first birthday on 28 January
2003. It allows skilled people from overseas to work in the UK without needing
to obtain a work permit. The programme has been revised on applications made
from 28 January onwards and guidelines have now been made on making Extension
Applications (see below). The Home Office has also stated that time spent as a
Highly Skilled Migrant may now be combined with time spent in other immigration
categories leading to settlement – such as a work permit holder – to count
towards the four years needed to obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK.

Revised programme

The main changes are to the point scoring system for assessing applicants.
They still require 75 points or more from the four categories of educational
qualifications, work experience, income earned in the past year and in their
chosen field. However, the changes are:

– Points for work experience increase from a range of 15 to 25 points, to 25
to 50 points – the highest score for those with 10 years’ graduate work
experience, including five years at a senior or specialist level

– While the points for income earned remain the same, there are now five
categories of countries instead of four. A much lower level of income is required
to score points from working in countries in categories B to E

– Significant achievement in the applicant’s chosen field will now only be
awarded 15 instead of 25 points, and exceptional achievement 25 instead of 50

– Switching the emphasis from achievement to work experience should allow
many more applications to succeed. It is often difficult for an individual to
score in the achievement category in practice.

Extension criteria

Successful HSMP applications lead to one year’s Leave to Remain in the UK.
To extend this by up to a further three years, the applicant needs to supply
evidence of his economic activity for the first 12 months. This should include
details of employment or, if self-employed, evidence of progress, including a
business plan and business bank account as a minimum. He must continue to meet
the "mandatory criteria" required for application – an ability to
continue his career in the UK, sufficient financial resources without reliance
on public funds and an intention to make the UK his main home. Extension
Applications will not be processed any earlier than one month before expiry of
the current leave.

The future?

In the first eleven-and-a-half months of the programme, there were
approximately 2,600 applications, with an approval rate of about 53 per cent –
but 12,000 applications are expected in the second year. It will be easier for
skilled migrants to obtain 75 points under the revised criteria.

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