The Government has announced that its new Points Based System for immigration will be phased in from early 2008.
The new system will consist of a five-tier framework. For each tier, applicants will need sufficient points to obtain entry or leave to remain in the UK. Points will be awarded to reflect aptitude, experience, age and also the level of need in any given sector, the intention being to allow the UK to respond flexibly to changes in the labour market. All but the most highly skilled immigrants will require a sponsor (normally their employer) who will be responsible for ensuring that a migrant worker complies with the rules of their entry to the UK and returns home at the end of their stay.
The timetable for implementation is as follows:
Tier 1 of the system, which caters for highly skilled migrants such as scientists and entrepreneurs, is expected to be introduced on 4 March 2008;
Tier 2, which will cover skilled workers with a job offer, and Tier 5, for youth mobility and temporary workers, are due to become operational in the third quarter of 2008; and
Tier 4, for students, will follow at the beginning of 2009.
The recently established Migration Advisory Committee will advise the Government on where migration might sensibly fill skills gaps in the economy. It will provide advice on what should be deemed the shortage occupations, for which employers can recruit migrants more easily under Tier 2, and on where and how large the quotas should be for low-skilled employment (Tier 3).
Sponsorship Under the Points Based System
The Government has now published a Statement of Intent for sponsorship under the Points Based System. This will apply to migrants other than nationals of the European Economic Area and those in Tier 1. The new licensed sponsor system is due to be introduced in the first quarter of 2008. When implemented, a licence will be needed to bring migrants to the UK. No one will be granted a licence without being approved in advance by the Border and Immigration Agency.
The Statement of Intent can be found at the Home Office website.
Tougher Penalties for Hiring Illegal Workers
The Government is also introducing new measures aimed at preventing illegal working in the UK. Under a new system of civil penalties, employers who negligently hire illegal workers could face a maximum fine of £10,000 for each illegal worker found at a business. If employers have knowingly hired illegal workers they could incur an unlimited fine and be sent to prison.
The new measures will take effect in February 2008 as part of the shake-up of the entire immigration system.
The Border and Immigration Agency will be issuing a code of practice giving guidance on how employers can avoid employing illegal migrant workers whilst at the same time avoiding actions that could make them liable to a charge of race discrimination.
New Rules for Students and Colleges
From 01 November 2007, approval under the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) became a mandatory requirement for non EU/EEA students intending to enter or remain in the United Kingdom for more than 6 months to undertake postgraduate studies or research in certain designated subjects. The move is designed to stop the spread of knowledge and skills that could be used in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.
The ATAS also applies to those who are enrolled on an overseas course that is similar in subject matter to those covered by the ATAS and who intend to come to the UK for more than 6 months in order to undertake a period of study/research which forms part of the postgraduate overseas course.
From November 2007, students wishing to come to, or extend their stay in, the United Kingdom for such a purpose are required to provide a valid ATAS clearance certificate with their application for an entry clearance or an extension of stay. Failure to provide a valid clearance certificate will result in the application being refused.
Further information can be found on the website of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. .
Any college recruiting students from abroad will in future need to be registered on a new Home Office Sponsors' Register. To qualify for the register they will have to show they have been accredited by an approved body. This measure is designed to prevent a bogus institution acting as a front for the entry of illegal immigrants to the country.
For further information on the new rules for colleges that teach overseas students, see the website of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.
New English Language Qualifications for Migrant Workers
The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has launched new English language qualifications for migrant workers and employers. The new English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) for Work qualifications will make it easier for migrant workers to get the practical English language skills they are likely to need in the workplace. There will be eight ESOL for Work qualifications, each having a slightly different focus and taking a different approach to assessment.
The new qualifications are shorter and more work-focused than traditional ESOL qualifications, giving learners practical English skills in essential workplace matters, such as health & safety and customer service. As well as better accuracy, efficiency and effectiveness, the new qualifications are designed to help employers benefit from improved communication and productivity and there will therefore be a fee payable for the course of study.
It is hoped that the qualifications will enable workers to improve their skills faster than through a traditional ESOL course. They are to be funded and delivered differently from traditional ESOL courses so that learners will be able to access provision quickly, bypassing the waiting lists that may exist on free ESOL courses.
The cost of the new ESOL for Work courses will continue to be funded by Government but a contribution will be required from employers, who directly benefit from the provision. The Learning and Skills Council has set the tariff for ESOL for Work at £880. In 2007/08 the fee element is £330, for which the learner or learner's sponsor (employer) is responsible. The initial take up group for the new qualifications is expected to be those people who have come to the country for work and who need skills to function in work, as well as those seeking work at the end of often short periods of employment.
Initially, the ESOL for Work qualifications will be available at Entry Level 3 and Level 1. Entry Level 3 is broadly equivalent to the standard expected of an 11 year old. Level 1 is broadly equivalent in difficulty to an English GCSE at grades D to G.
A leaflet on the new qualifications is available on the DfES website.