The Conservatives will not lower entry criteria in the points-based immigration system to enable more highly-skilled migrants to work in the UK.
Damien Green, shadow minister for immigration, yesterday said he would push for more highly qualified (tier one) migrants to enter the country, but he told Personnel Today that relaxing tier one restrictions was not the answer.
Employers’ groups have previously complained that current regulations are inflexible and make it difficult for some highly skilled migrant workers – like doctors – to enter the country.
Under the points-based system (PBS) tier one migrants must have £2,800 in a bank account and the equivalent of a Masters degree.
Green told Personnel Today: “I don’t think we need to go that far [to relax entry criteria] because in the end it’s quite easy to come here under tier one.
“Clearly we would constantly keep the details of the points-based system under review to see whether it’s doing its business, but I’m not particularly thinking of relaxing the qualifications at this stage.”
He added that the Conservatives would look at other ways that “Britain can do its best to attract those people and we absolutely need to”, but he refused to outline what alternative measures this might include.
Green also refused to set a target for the number of highly skilled migrants he would want to see coming to the UK each year, saying: “We should have a target that we have as many of those people as possible every year.”
Speaking to an immigration fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference, Green said 81,000 work-permit holders were admitted to the UK last year, compared with 53,000 in 1999 – representing an increase of one-third.
Eight per cent of the UK workforce is made up of foreign nationals, and employment-related grants for settlement rose by 63% in 2008.
The shadow immigration minister said a Conservative government would implement an annual limit on non-EU migrants, which would be set by the Home Secretary, and allow flexible migration to suit business needs.
Green said: “We will control the number of immigrant workers coming to this country and at the same time we will train our own workers much better, particularly in those vocational and technical skills – which for decades we have been bad, as a country, for doing – so that British workers are employable and desirable workers for British employers.”
He added that the Conservatives would create a specialist border police force to crack down on employers who take on illegal workers.
The points-based system
The PBS was introduced in November 2008 to better control the numbers of migrant workers coming to the UK. It is split into five categories, of which tiers 1 and 2 are the most relevant for employers.
Tier one: This is designed to allow highly skilled workers to come to the UK to look for work or self-employment opportunities.
Tier two: The skilled worker category is for people coming to the UK with a skilled job offer to fill a gap in the workforce that cannot be filled by a settled worker. Employers wishing to hire migrants under this tier must become sponsors.