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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 July, 2005, 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK
Immigration consultation launched
The Canadian Immigration Service's points plan
Canada: Uses points system similar to that proposed for the UK
The public are to be consulted about a proposed new immigration system to be introduced in the UK.

Legislation going through Parliament will create a points-based entry system with five "tiers" of immigration.

The highly skilled or those with their skills most in need, will theoretically find it easier to come to the UK.

The proposals are similar to systems in other industrialised countries which have sought to use economic immigration to their competitive advantage.

Immigration Minister Tony McNulty said he wanted to hear the views of employers, educational institutions, prospective migrants and the public over the coming four months.

Need for confidence

The Home Office is not expected to start using the points system until at least the middle of 2006.

"The public need to have confidence that our immigration system is properly run and enforced, with strict controls that work," said Mr McNulty.

"People need to understand clearly who is allowed into the country and why, who is allowed to settle permanently and why - and that these decisions are taken in the interests of Britain. This consultation is designed to achieve just that."

Highly-skilled workers
Skilled workers
Low-skilled workers

The five tiers of the scheme cover five broad categories of entry to the UK.

They will replace the current complex alternatives to gaining entry to the UK, although citizens of other EU states would be allowed to come and go as they please under the free market rules which also allow British citizens to do the same.

Only workers in the top two tiers - skilled and highly skilled workers would be allowed to seek permanent residence in the UK, and then only after five years.

The new system is expected to include a web-based self-assessment facility, something used in other countries including Australia, which would show the current points-rating for each job, skill or profession.

How these points would be awarded is yet to be decided.

In other countries, such as Canada, a board of experts regularly re-assesses the points being awarded to respond to economic circumstances.

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