UK business cautiously welcomes simplified migrant worker scheme

The business community has given a guarded welcome to the government’s finalised plans for a points-based immigration system.

The scheme, unveiled by the Home Office last week, grades workers from outside the EU who want to work in the UK into one of five tiers based on their qualifications and where there are skills shortages. It will replace the present framework, which has about 80 different categories for migrants.

The CBI said the simplified system would help companies recruit the best talent from around the globe. But Susan Anderson, CBI director of HR policy, said the government must continue to police the system and not expect employers to do it.

“Employers have a role to check their staff can legally work in the UK, but cannot be expected to act as immigration officials. This is a responsibility the government must bear,” she said.

A new Skills Advisory Body (SAB) will be set up to identify skills shortages and advise the government on where migrant workers are most needed.

The Sector Skills Development Agency (SSDA), the umbrella organisation for the Sector Skills Councils, will manage the SAB.

Professor Mike Campbell, director of strategy and research at the SSDA, said the organisation had consulted with the Home Office and was ready to be involved, subject to the necessary manpower and funding to make the SAB effective.

The five tiers of immigration

  • Tier 1 – highly skilled (eg, scientists or entrepreneurs). Allowed to stay in the UK after two years.
  • Tier 2 – skilled workers with a job offer (eg, nurses or teachers). Allowed to settle in the UK after five years.
  • Tier 3 – low-skilled workers filling specific temporary labour shortages (eg, construction workers for a particular project). Not allowed to apply to settle in the UK.
  • Tier 4 – students. Can stay in the UK during study periods, but cannot apply for settlement rights.
  • Tier 5 – youth mobility and temporary workers (eg, working holidaymakers or musicians coming to play a concert). Allowed into the UK for up to two years, but may not apply for settlement.

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