The UK is introducing a new points-based system governing all aspects of work-related immigration for non European citizens. This will impact on employees and increasingly technology companies who are reliant upon skilled immigrants and who should ensure they are familiar with the changes. The new system is intended to control immigration more effectively and identify the most talented workers for the UK. There will be 5 tiers, with points to be awarded to reflect aptitude, experience, age and the need in any given business sector. The new system will focus on high-skilled training and employment and reduce to an absolute minimum low-skilled migration.
The 5 tiers are:
- highly skilled individuals who will contribute to growth
- skilled workers with a job offer to fill gaps in the UK labour market
- limited low skilled workers to fill temporary labour shortages
- youth and temporary workers for short periods for non-economic purposes.
Clearly, tiers 1 and 2 are relevant for technology companies due to the emphasis on high skilled workers. These tiers can lead to long term settlement for the individual together with dependants. Tiers 3 and 5 will be of a temporary nature and will not allow switching immigration category whilst tiers 1, 2 and 4 will allow some switching of status. Decision making
The scheme is modelled on the existing successful Highly Skilled Migrant Programme Scheme in the UK and a similar scheme in Australia. Points based on set criteria will be awarded. In tiers 1 and 2 they will be awarded for age, previous salary and qualifications. Such a system should allow an objective way of making decisions and be more transparent and will therefore be very difficult to appeal.
Employers and education institutions will be required to share responsibility for the immigration from which they will benefit. Tiers 2 and 5 will require a certificate of sponsorship issued by the UK Immigration Authorities. The full costs of the scheme will be recovered through fees and charges, although at the time of writing details of the charges have not yet been published.
Tier 1 will be implemented at the end of March 2008. Tier 2, which will encompass the existing work permit scheme, although modified, will be introduced in autumn 2008. The more rigorous points based system will also include an increased fine of up to £10,000 for employing a worker illegally. Employers should familiarise themselves now with these new rules particularly as Tier 2 will require such employers to be registered and approved in advance of making any application. The remaining tiers are to be introduced in early 2009.