A Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee, made up of MP’s, (elected Members of Parliament) have given a ‘thumbs-up’ to the points based system, introduced last year to control migration levels, but identified some problems.
The report, published last week, said more weight should be given to skills training and job experience rather than earnings in entry criteria.
But the Conservative opposition party, who are widely expected to return to power at the next election, think Labour are “floundering” over immigration policy and have renewed calls for an annual cap on non-EU migrants.
One of the rules highlighted was Tier 1, for highly skilled migrants and investors, which allows wealthy investors and most graduates under the age of 40 earning the equivalent in their country of £40,000 a year can come to the UK from outside the EU.
Tier 3 for unskilled workers, is closed and firms can only recruit “skilled” workers from non-EU countries if they cannot fill a vacancy or the occupation is on a list of shortage occupations.
The Migation Advisory Committee (MAC) assess gaps in the economy, publishing details of sectors where there are skills shortages, and recommend changes to the system.
The MP’s gave the system a “cautious welcome”, which they said generally struck the right balance between requiring most employers to recruit first from within the UK while recognising that some organisations in specialist professions would need to look further afield to fill vacancies.
The use of ‘transparent and objective’ criteria in deciding exactly which skilled workers could enter the UK was correct, they added.
But the committee warned about some “perverse outcomes”, arguing more consideration should be given to someone’s length of employment and abilities rather than earnings or degree qualifications.
“It seems spurious that a fresh master’s graduate in their first job should qualify as a highly-skilled migrant where a businessperson of 25 years global experience earning hundreds of thousands of pounds without a master’s degree does not,” said its chairman Keith Vaz.
Among other concerns highlighted was the length of time it took to process biometric visas, the speed with which the Border Agency responded to representations about individual cases and the “lack of an independent appeals process”.
“It is imperative that the Border Agency considerably improves its performance in processing the backlog of undecided cases and in responding to MPs’ representations,” Mr Vaz added.
Immigration Minister Phil Woolas welcomed the general thrust of the committee’s report, saying the system had also received support from many businesses and education colleges.
“The system is key part of a radical shake up of our immigration system, ensuring only those that the economy needs can come here to work and study,” he said.
“It is a more effective system than an arbitrary cap, allowing us to raise and lower the bar in response to changes in Britain’s economy and work force.”
Anti immigration pressure group Migration Watch UK said the system was not filling gaps in the labour market or making UK workers more competitive and was open to abuse.
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