Stricter immigration rules for migrant workers coming to the UK

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has announced tougher measures to reduce the number of foreign workers wishing to enter the UK, and to give British workers a greater change of applying first for UK jobs.

This announcement is seen as a move to respond to the current economic downturn – helping British workers through the hard times of the recession.

The UK Government has already suspended tier 3 of the points-based system (PBS) for low-skilled workers to ensure no foreign workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) can come to the UK and work in a low-skilled job.

Three significant changes have been announced to support British workers and to be more selective about the migrants coming to the UK from outside the EEA. From 1 April the Government will:

  • strengthen the resident labour market test for tier 2 skilled jobs so that employers must advertise jobs to resident workers through JobCentre Plus before they can bring in a worker from outside the EEA;
  • use each shortage occupation list to trigger skills reviews that focus on up-skilling UK resident workers for these occupations, which will make the UK less dependent on migration for the future; and
  • tighten new criteria against which highly skilled migrants seeking entry to the UK are judged, by raising the qualifications and salary required for tier 1 (General) of the PBS to a Master’s degree and a minimum salary of £20,000.

The Home Secretary has also asked the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to report on:

  • whether there is an economic case for restricting tier 2 (skilled workers) to shortage occupations only;
  • his assessment of the economic contribution made by the dependants of PBS migrants and their role in the labour market; and
  • what further changes there should be to the criteria for tier 1 in 2010/11, given the changing economic circumstances.

Jacqui Smith said:

“Just as in a growth period we needed migrants to support growth, it is right in a downturn to be more selective about the skill levels of those migrants, and to do more to put British workers first.

“These measures are not about narrow protectionism – a flexible immigration system, rather than an arbitrary cap, is better for British business and the British economy. We recognise that migration continues to play an important role in the UK, at the same time as we are giving greater support to domestic workers so that we can all come through the recession stronger.

“Given the economic circumstances and the action we are taking to be more selective, I expect the number of migrants coming to the UK from outside the EEA to fall during the next financial year.”

For Tier 1 (General) and Tier 2 (General) applications submitted prior to 1 April when the stricter rules will be introduced, the current, less strict rules remain to apply.