Traditionally, if an employer wished to employ an individual from outside
the EU, it needed to apply for a work permit. But on 28 January 2002, the
Government introduced the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) to allow
international high-flyers to enter the UK without a job offer.
How does it work?
The individual applies to their local British Embassy or High Commission and
their application is scored, based on a points system.
Scoring is based on educational qualifications (from 15 points for a graduate
to 30 points for those holding a PHD), work experience (15 points for those
with five years’ experience in a graduate level job or 10 points for two years
at a senior level or as a specialist within their chosen field), past earnings
(between 25 and 50 points, depending on the country worked in) and an
additional 25 or 50 points for those who can demonstrate a significant or
exceptional achievement in their fields.
To be successful the individual must score 75 points or more out of a
possible 145. The applicant must also demonstrate: the potential to continue
their chosen career in the UK, that they can support themselves and their
family without recourse to public funds; and that they are willing and able to
make the UK their main home.
Leave to come to the UK can be granted for up to 12 months under HSMP. That
can be extended to four years. Successful applicants can also bring their
spouse and children.
The particular Government is also going to target people from outside the EU
with skills or qualifications to come to the UK. For example, the Department of
Health has set up HSMP priority applications for GPs.
This is another attempt by the Government to attract immigrants to fill
skills shortages to help the UK compete in the global economy.
It is a natural progression from the decision last year to add an
immigration category for ‘Innovators’. That scheme encourages talented
individuals with a track record to apply for leave to set up a business in the
The HSMP may be of particular interest to employers with shortages of
suitable recruits at senior or graduate levels.
However, the way the programme is devised, it appears to rely on attracting
overseas high-earning graduates with enough money to come to the UK without a
Whether there will be a large take-up in the current economic climate
remains to be seen.