Lower paid overseas workers such as Senior Carers and most Nurses have no chance of qualifying to work in the UK under new rules announced by the UK Border Agency this week.
In a statement of intent, the Home Office has published proposals for “much tighter skilled and temporary worker tiers of its new Points Based System (PBS)”.
The schemes are split into five Tiers. Tier 2 and Tier 5 will replace around 30 different routes to the UK, including the old work permit system.
The announcement makes it clear, for the first time, that the Government intends using PBS to reduce immigration from outside the EU, with Gordon Brown again waving the “anti-immigration” stick following Labour’s recent disastrous local election results.
“UK firms will have to prove they cannot find skilled workers from the European Economic Area before looking elsewhere for immigrants”, Ministers say.
The Home Office said “bosses would not be able to fill posts before advertising first in the UK”.
“The points-based guidelines for skilled workers also say most will need a job offer before coming to the country”.
Employers are required to advertise posts (unless it falls under one of the few shortage occupations) to prove a vacancy cannot be filled by a worker from within the EU under the current Work Permit scheme, but the new points rating system will favour higher paid skilled workers and make it much tougher to bring in lower paid skilled workers.
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said the new system would mean UK workers “get a fair crack of the whip and that only the skilled migrants we actually need will be able to come.”
“Points for skilled workers, such as teachers, nurses and engineers, will be awarded according to qualifications and salary prospects.”
Many in staff-strapped industries, such as care and catering, would argue that they have always given UK resident workers (or to put it correctly, ‘EU’ workers) a “fair crack of the whip” and only bring in foreign workers as a last resort when they cannot fill vacancies.
Senior Carers will not qualify under points system
As expected, the points system will offer little help for the care sector, which has been relying on overseas workers for years.
Applicants who want to work in the UK will need to score 70 points, of which 50 must be “Attribute” points based on sponsorship, qualifications and prospective earnings.
Candidates will only score points for jobs paying over £17000 and the meagre 5 points gained will hardly make a difference. Only jobs paying more than £24000 will receive sufficient points (20) to make a significant dent in the 50 point target.
The Home Office “going rate”, disputed by many in the industry as too high, for a Senior Carer is £7.02 per hour or around £14000 per annum. The RCN 2006/07 pay rate for a ‘D Grade’ nurse was just over £18000 before allowances.
Qualifications are another way candidates can earn points, with 10 points being awarded for a Degree or Masters and 15 for a PhD. But people from poorer and developing nations will be penalised by the equivalency rules (see NARIC) meaning the majority of their degrees are considered below UK standards and will not, therefore, qualify for any points.
An NVQ level 3 qualification is recognised and will attract 5 points.
Only those who work in an area where there is a shortage of qualified people will be allowed into the UK without a job offer, however, this is a diminishing list with 38 occupations, including Doctors and Dentists, removed in March.
Language and maintenance will also be taken into account with migrants having to prove their English proficiency and show at least £800 in savings before being allowed in.
The Home Office continued.
“To qualify, skilled foreign nationals will have to earn a certain number of points before being allowed to work in Britain. These points are awarded only if a person can prove they will be doing skilled work, speak a good standard of English, and are earning more than £24,000, or have a decent qualification. Employers will need a licence from the UK Border Agency to offer jobs to skilled workers.”
The licensing system is another cause for concern among smaller employers who will have to apply for a licence in order to renew a workers permission to work. The Home Office said that applications for an employer licence, costing up to £1000, will not be available until the autumn, which is when Tier 2 is being launched.
Immigration Matters Comment
As Sir Andrew Green of Migration Watch puts it, the announcement smacks of pure electioneering “spin”, with migrants being used as ‘political footballs’ in an attempt to win votes.
On Monday Gordon Brown, just days after suffering one of Labours biggest local election defeats, was outlining measures to “discourage companies from hiring immigrants”.
Labour lost 331 seats across local councils in England and Wales in last week’s local election. In London, Conservative Boris Johnson ousted Labour’s incumbent Mayor Ken Livingstone.
The Labour government, trailing the opposition Conservatives in the polls, says it is trying to deal with public concerns that immigration is causing overcrowding and straining public services. The Conservatives have proposed an annual cap on migrants and seem to be winning votes by taking a tougher stand on immigration.
When the PBS was first unveiled by the then Home Secretary Charles Clarke in 2005, it was heralded as a positive step forward, which would make it easier and more transparent for companies to hire the workers they need from overseas. Now, when the political tide has turned against immigration, it is being sold to the electorate as something which will restrict immigration.
Home Office analysis showed if the tighter Tier 2 and 5 rules had been in place last year, close to ten per cent fewer skilled and temporary migrants from outside the EEA would have been allowed into Britain to work in equivalent categories – around 20,000 people. The Home Office also confirmed that from this year low skilled workers from outside the EU will be barred.
The Points Based System discriminates against migrants from poorer countries, who will struggle to meet educational equivalence and maintenance requirements. This despite the fact that Work Permit holders are not entitle to state benefits and have usually been more than able to stand on their own feet.
Finally, what will happen to the thousands of existing Work Permit holders such as Senior Carers who haven’t got a hope in hell of qualifying under the new rules? The Government must give those workers and their employers a lifeline.
This week Immigration Matters wrote to a Home Office Minister to confirm a rumour that the Government is planning to extend the “transitional arrangement”, which runs until the introduction of Tier 2, beyond September to help reduce the “impact” of the changes on Senior Carers.
Why not grant Work Permit holders with four years continuous work in the UK Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)? This would solve thousands of cases at a stroke and avoid costly legal action and appeals.
After all, these migrants would have already qualified for ILR had the rules not been changed and applied retrospectively.
Immigration Matters will publish the reply as soon as we receive it and inform readers of any further developments.
Bison UK are running special free seminars for Senior Carers worried about their status. For further information or to book a place call 0208 905 1822.