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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 April 2007, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Timetable for new migrant process
Shoppers on Oxford Street, London
The Home Secretary wants incomers to bring skills to the economy
A new points-based system aimed at restricting immigration to the UK to those with skills in demand will start in the new year, it has been confirmed.

Immigration minister Liam Byrne unveiled the timetable on a visit to Australia, which uses a similar system.

Writing in a pamphlet due out later this month, Mr Byrne also warned uncontrolled migration could damage the poorest communities.

Migration made the UK richer but had also "unsettled the country", he wrote.

"The political risk for any government is that if you fail to solve this paradox you could lose your job," wrote the minister.

"Migration has to support Britain's national interests," he said, later adding that the government wanted more robust control of borders but "not a barricade".

The answer is in action that is simultaneously firm and fair
Minister Liam Byrne

Boosting standards in schools became harder when the population of children with English as a second language increased substantially, added the minister.

He cited a school in his own Birmingham constituency which had seen the number of non-English speakers rise from 5% to 20% in a year.

"It is true that a small number of schools have struggled to cope, that some local authorities have reported problems of overcrowding in private housing and that there have been cost pressures on English language training, but the answer is in action that is simultaneously firm and fair."

Points based on workers' skills and demand for those skills
Highly skilled workers: Doctors, scientists, entrepreneurs. Allowed in without job offer
Skilled workers: People with qualifications or experience in range of sectors. Allowed in if there is a shortage
Low skilled workers: Catering and construction workers etc. Must have job offer
Students: Must have college place and funding
Temporary workers: Musicians, sportspeople, people on working holidays. Tighter restrictions on right to stay
Workers from EU: No restrictions on migrants from all EU countries except Bulgaria and Romania

The system, under which would-be migrants would need to amass a sufficient number of points according to their skills and any sector gaps in the UK, was first announced by Home Secretary John Reid last year.

It will replace more than 80 routes of entry to the UK with five tiers for workers with different levels of skills.

A new Migration Advisory Committee will be set up to advise ministers on where migration might sensibly fill gaps in the labour market.

The first tier, for highly-skilled migrants such as scientists and entrepreneurs, will be launched at the beginning of 2008.

It will be followed later in the year by the new tiers for skilled workers like nurses, teachers and engineers with job offers, temporary workers and young people on working holidays.

A further tier for students will follow at the beginning of 2009. A system of sponsorship by employers and educational institutions to ensure compliance with the immigration rules is being introduced at the beginning of next year.

The UK Independence Party described the government's proposals as "pointless".

The government's plan to introduce a points system for granting UK visas was described today as "pointless".

UKIP chariman John Whittaker said: "The points system would work if it assessed applications for everyone who wants to live in Britain.

"But Mr Byrne's system will have no effect either on illegal immigrants or people coming here from the European Union."

Australia's use of a points-based migration test

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