23 February 2009

Smith "raising the bar" on UK immigration

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Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is to make it tougher for highly skilled migrants to move to the UK, under new rules that are due to go live in April, reports the BBC News.

Under the new rules to go live in April, overseas workers using the tier 1 category for skilled migration would have to have at least a masters' degree – rather than a bachelor's degree - if they have not already secured a job in the UK.  They also have to prove their previous salary amounted to at least £20,000, which is a £3,000 increase on the current rules.

Not only has Ms Smith made it tougher for highly skilled migrants to get a UK visa, she has also commissioned a review by the Migration Advisory Committee into the effects of allowing the family members of highly skilled migrants to work in the UK.

Ms Smith says the new laws are a reflection on the current economic situation, and the Home Office is taking advantage of its new points-based system for immigration, which allows for greater reflexivity to market conditions.

She says the Home Office is responding to the calls of British unemployed, who feel that immigrants are taking their jobs.

"I'm proposing, for example, that it shouldn't be possible for somebody to come into this country to take a skilled job unless that job has been advertised to a British worker through Jobcentre Plus."

"I am actually raising the bar," Ms Smith said.

Ms Smith is also proposing that the government invests in developing the skills of local British workers in the areas indentified to have skills shortages, so that in the long term the UK immigration programme can be kept at a minimum.

Damian Green, the Shadow Immigration Secretary, said the Home Office needs to do more than "raising the bar" for skilled migrants, and needs to put a ceiling on the migration numbers.

The Home Office predicts that the new rules would more than halve the number of skilled migrants from 26,000 last year to 14,000 next year.  Last year, the number of UK work permits issued to non-EU workers rose from 140,000 to 151,000 in the 11 months to November last year.

"Jacqui Smith is just tinkering around the edges of the immigration system.  If she wants to control the numbers entering the country legally, then she should introduce a limit, as a Conservative government would.  She is just floundering in reaction to public anger," Green said.


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