The UK government has announced that stricter entry requirements are being introduced for migrant workers who wish to come to the UK. The introduction of the stricter rules is intended to ensure that British workers have a reasonable chance of getting jobs that might previously have gone to foreign workers.
A points-based immigration system for foreign workers was first introduced in the UK in 2008. Under this system applicants must score a pre-determined number of points in different categories in order to obtain a UK work visa. The system can easily be amended so that applicants need a higher number of points before they will be granted a visa.
The article below applies to workers from outside the European Union or the European Economic Area. Most European citizens have the same right to work in the UK as British citizens under European law. However, special rules do apply to some European nationals, including those from Bulgaria and Romania.
Why the Rules Have Changed
In a difficult economic environment, when many people are losing their jobs, it is thought by some to be unfair that foreign workers are allowed to come to the UK to take up jobs which might have been done by British workers. The government has estimated that tightening the rules for migrant workers could result in the number of immigrants coming to the UK being reduced by about 12,000 per year.
This development also reflects an ongoing overhaul of the immigration system under which all categories of immigrants must earn their right to come to or live in the UK, and prove that they will make a valuable contribution to the country while they are here.
Tier 1 of the Points-Based System
The entry requirements for highly skilled workers applying under the General category of Tier 1 of the points-based system have been increased. Applicants will now need to score a higher number of points to be successful under this category. In particular the minimum level of qualification for this category has been increased to a Masters Degree and applicants must have a salary of at least £20,000 per year.
Tier 2 of the Points-Based System – Skilled Workers
Under the rules for Tier 2 foreign workers may apply in this category to work in skilled jobs which cannot be filled by UK workers. Although this category was intended to fill gaps in the workforce there have been suspicions from some quarters that employers have used it as a way of recruiting a cheaper workforce from abroad.
Stricter rules have been introduced about the way in which employers advertise jobs which supposedly cannot be filled by British workers. Jobs must now be advertised through the government-run JobCentre Plus recruitment centres before workers from outside Europe can be employed to fill them.
It has already been suggested that applications under the Tier 2 category could be restricted so that applications under Tier 2 would only be accepted for jobs which cannot be filled by British workers.
Skills Shortage Lists
The situation for foreign workers applying under Tier 2 may be compounded by the government’s intention to modify the way in which skills shortage lists are used. Previously these would be used to focus overseas recruitment on areas where there was a shortage of home-grown workers. However, skills shortage lists may now be used to identify areas where the British workforce lacks skills and provide training to domestic workers. The intention would be to reduce or eliminate the need to recruit foreign workers in the future.
Tier 3 of the Points-Based System
Tier 3 of the points-based system has been (temporarily) withdrawn meaning that no applications will be accepted from migrant workers who wish to come to the UK to work in low-skilled jobs.