Thousands of immigrant workers will be forced to learn English before they are allowed into the UK, the BBC reports.
The latest crackdown on immigration, which could reduce the number of people entering Britain each year by 35,000, will be unveiled by Gordon Brown in a speech to the Trades Union Congress in Brighton, the story continues.
The new rule will affect those seeking to work and settle permanently in Britain from countries outside the European Union.
The move will be seen as another shift to the Right by the Prime Minister and will form a key part of the government’s new hard line policy on immigration.
Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, told BBC One’s Sunday AM: “One of the ways in which I think we can make sure that people integrate more quickly… is by expecting people who are coming here through the skilled – and slightly less-skilled route – to actually be able to speak English.“
She added: “Those who we welcome into the UK to work and settle here need to understand our traditions and feel that they are part of our shared national culture.
“They need to integrate into our country, learn English and use our language.”
But the British Chamber of Commerce said it was concerned the measure would put workers off coming to the UK.
Director General, David Frost, said: “In recent years, migrant workers to the UK have ensured the continued growth of the economy, possessing a work ethic and skill level that many young British people just do not have.
“Of course language skills are important, but I would be concerned if this meant that those who want to work and help our economy grow are kept out of the country and take their skills and talent elsewhere.”
Skilled migrants only allowed to settle
Under the government’s new “points based” system, there are three main categories of immigrants coming to Britain from outside the EU to work: highly skilled, skilled, and low-skilled workers. Only the first two groups can eventually settle permanently in Britain.
Highly skilled migrants have been forced to learn English as a condition of entry since last December.
Nurses are already required to prove their English speaking ability by passing the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam before being allowed to enter the UK.
It comes as little surprise that the condition will be extended to all skilled migrants, who numbered 96,000 last year.
According to government sources, about 35,000 of them would not have passed an English-speaking test.
Migrants will be now be expected to speak, write and understand English to a standard equivalent to GCSE grade A to C (taken by sixteen year olds in schools), obtaining proof either by passing an internationally recognised English test (e.g. IELTS) or proving they have a university degree from a course taught in English.
Mr Brown and Ms Smith may also announce a review of whether the restrictions should be extended to low-skilled workers, such as fruit pickers, even though they are not allowed to settle permanently in Britain. This would prove disastrous for beleaguered farmers already struggling to recruit essential seasonal workers.
There will be some exemptions to the new rules, likely to include international footballers signed by Premiership clubs, who will be allowed in for “practical reasons”, according to government sources.
The new policy builds on a previous speech (“British jobs for British people”) in June by Mr Brown when he stressed his preference for training unemployed and low-skilled Britons to fill the country’s skills gap rather than relying on migrants.
Many employers have argued that this is all very well if you can find British people to do the jobs that nobody seems to want to do, such as caring for the elderly.
The majority of Work Permit holders come from developing countries. Last year’s entrants included 51,000 from the Indian subcontinent, 28,000 from the rest of Asia and the Middle East, 34,000 from the Americas, 13,000 from Africa, 12,000 from non-EU countries in Europe, and 8,000 from Oceania.
Some stay only temporarily, but 50,000 were granted extensions last year. At present, those who spend five (formerly four) years here can apply for leave to settle, which is usually granted.
Information technology professionals are the biggest single category of worker admitted to Britain on Work Permits, with 32,000 allowed in last year, the majority from India.
If you need advice on Work Permits and other schemes, please email Charles Kelly
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