UK HSMP Suspended pending a new scheme in a month

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The first step towards a points based system for managing migration was launched today with the introduction of new rules for highly skilled foreign workers applying to come to the United Kingdom.

The new test means that entrepreneurs and professionals will face a rigorous but clear test of their capability to work here and will help select migrants who will be the most successful in benefiting Britain's economy.

The change to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) come as Immigration Minister Liam Byrne launched an Employers' Taskforce made up of representatives from businesses and colleges working with Government to develop and eventually implement the points based system's tough new sponsorship rules. These will play a vital role in preventing abuse of the immigration system by ensuring industry checks that their overseas staff and international students have a right to work.

Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said:

"Today's announcement reinforces the Home Office's firm but fair immigration policy by ensuring that only those who can benefit Britain through work or study will be allowed to come here.

"Our new Employers' Taskforce will help good employers set the rules that drive out the bad apples. Businesses and colleges benefit from having foreign nationals work or study with them so they have a special responsibility to help us get the rules right.

"As announced this summer in our review of the Immigration Nationality Directorate we intend to double our enforcement budget by 2009/10 and we will increasingly expect businesses and colleges to play their part to make sure the system is as strong as it needs to be."

As part of the work of the Taskforce, members will be asked to discuss a range of issues including fines for employers, seizing assets of persistent offenders, disbarring company officers who knowingly employ illegal workers and their sponsorship responsibilities.

Supporting today's announcement the CBI's Deputy Director-General, John Cridland, added:

"Employers want to see a streamlined and transparent points-based migration system that will attract highly-skilled migrants to the UK for the benefit of the economy.

"We welcome the Home Office's new Employers' Taskforce and hope that it gives employers a clear voice in this debate moving forward."

The Government's points based system for managing migration was launched in February this year and forms a central strand of the Home Office's review of immigration announced by the Home Secretary in July.

The revised HSMP criteria will allow applicants to score points against the following criteria:

• qualifications;
• previous earnings;
• prior UK experience as a student or employee;
• age; and
• participation in an MBA scheme

The HSMP will be suspended until 05 December to manage the transition to the new arrangements. Applicants for further leave made during the suspension will be accepted as valid and decided after the new rules come into effect, with applicants given the opportunity to submit new information where necessary. Entry clearance and settlement applications under HSMP will continue to be decided as normal.

Canada, Australia and New Zealand already have highly successful points-based immigration systems in place, and many other countries either use one or are considering them.

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