The UK Government is to introduce a points-based system for clearing immigrant workers, similar to those used in Canada and Australia.

Employers will need to be aware of the new system and their related responsibilities.

In March 2006, the UK Government announced that its new approach to immigration will involve using a points based system. This system is not expected to be in place until later this year.

Some of the changes it will introduce are as follows:

# Under the new scheme, it will be simpler for highly skilled immigrants (doctors, engineers, finance experts, etc) to obtain entry clearance or leave to remain in the UK, while less skilled immigrants will find it more difficult.

# Applicants will have to score a certain number of points based on qualifications, work experience, language ability and other factors.

# Bonus points will be available for those with skills in particular shortage areas, such as medicine.

# All applicants, other than the most highly skilled, will need to provide a certificate of sponsorship from an approved sponsor, such as an employer or a school, when making their application.

This is similar to the current system, where only Highly Skilled Migrant Programme applicants are allowed to immigrate without having first secured a job offer.

Sponsors will have to apply to sponsor a potential immigrant and will also be rated by the Home Office, which could prove to be a substantial burden for employers.

Two key sanctions will be used to prevent overstayers.

Firstly, the Government may require that a financial bond be put in place, which would be forfeited should the worker not leave the UK at the end of their stay.

Secondly, employers themselves will be fined £2,000 for each illegal worker.