Skilled workers gain in immigration plans

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Indy Politics

Lower-skilled migrants from the developing world will face an uphill struggle to win permission to work in Britain under moves to overhaul the immigration system. A new points-based system will give priority to young workers of all nationalities with highly sought-after qualifications in such areas as medicine and science.

But the new system will make it difficult for temporary migrants from outside the European Union, who have previously been able to work legally in Britain on work permit schemes, to come legally to this country.

Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, announced a five-tier immigration structure, described as "the most significant change to managed migration in the past 40 years". The top tier will focus on the most skilled workers who will be given points for their youth, academic achievements and earning power. Those with enough points will be allowed immediate entry and the prospect of being allowed to settle permanently within two years.

The second will allow skilled workers, such as nurses, teachers and engineers, to come if they have job offers and also accumulate enough points. They could also gain permission to settle within five years.

The third will allow low-skilled workers, who could include labourers and fruit pickers, into Britain for a fixed period to fill jobs shortages. The Home Office said: "Our starting-point is that employers should look first to recruit from the UK and the expanded EU before recruiting from outside the EU." These workers, who could stay for a year, could not come from countries with a track record of illegal immigration. They could be required to prove they are sending some of their pay home and to produce return air tickets.

The fourth tier will place strict controls on students, who will only be allowed entry if they have a place at an approved university or college, while the fifth will cover working tourists.

Mr Clarke won the backing of the TUC and the employers' organisation, the CBI. But the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said: "The Government says it is committed to making poverty history in the developing world - how is making migration harder for people from those countries going to help that?"