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Home Office: Immigration points system 'will benefit UK'

The points-based system has been cautiously welcomed by industry and experts
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

The Government on Tuesday announced the introduction of a "cleaner" points-based immigration system for IT specialists and other highly skilled workers.

Intended to make it easier for highly skilled workers from outside the EU to enter the country to work without first having a job offer or sponsor, the new scheme could boost the skilled workforce in the UK, according to the Home Office.

The Home Office said the introduction of the points based system will replace the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) — which had problems of "complexity and inefficiency... inconsistency, and inaccuracy", according to a Home Office report.

"The points based system replaces HSMP, is more transparent and cleaner, and is much more employer led. It is making sure the UK benefits from entrepreneurs and highly skilled workers," the Home Office told ZDNet UK.

Under the new system prospective workers will be split into five tiers. IT specialists would probably fall into tier one or tier two, according to the Home Office.

"In tier one, highly skilled workers can come in without a job offer. Tier two workers can come in if the Skills Advisory Body identifies a shortage of workers, or if the immigrants won't displace workers from the EU," said the Home Office.

UK IT industry body Intellect welcomed the new points-based system as a "positive" move by the government.

Nick Kalisperas, director of public sector at Intellect, told ZDNet UK sister site silicon.com: "It's a step in the right direction. It's important there is recognition that the industry needs staff from outside the EU."

But he said this is only part of the answer to addressing the shortage of some IT skills in the UK. "More needs to be done in terms of retraining, more in terms of attracting women into the IT workforce and more in making IT an attractive discipline and career option for students," he said.

Centre-left think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) cautiously welcomed the system, saying it was a "welcome attempt to harness the benefits of migration and reassure a sceptical public that the immigration system is under control.

"However, this attempt to clarify and simplify the system will only work if the scheme proves flexible enough to respond to actual demand, both for lower- and higher-skilled workers. The ultimate test will be whether the system finds the right workers for the right jobs across the skills spectrum," said IPPR senior research fellow Danny Sriskandarajah.

silicon.com's Andy McCue contributed to this report.

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