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Immigration: Migration Reform

Volume 698: debated on Wednesday 6 February 2008

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration and Minister for the West Midlands (Liam Byrne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Over the next year, the Government will deliver the biggest shake-up of the immigration system for over 45 years. As part of these reforms I am today laying the first of a series of new immigration rules implementing the points-based system (PBS). The PBS will build on a package of measures already being introduced to deliver our four objectives of protection, prevention, accountability and compassion.

Steps to strengthen our border protection will include; checking fingerprints before we issue a visa, screening all travellers against watch-lists and introducing a single border force with police-like powers for frontline staff. The PBS will form part of a robust system that is designed to prevent illegal migration. Associated measures will include big fines for employers who don't make checks and compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals make checks easier. We will continue to welcome those who promise to abide by the rules but we will hold to account those that break the rules, including automatic deportation for those who commit a serious offence.

The new rules for the points system strengthen our power to automatically refuse applications in which deception is used. Those who breach our immigration laws will be barred from returning to the UK for a fixed period of up to 10 years. The new rules also begin to implement the PBS Tier 1 (General) route for highly skilled migrants.

Separately from the PBS changes, we are laying today amendments to the immigration rules that will restrict migrants in certain circumstances from taking employment as a doctor in training.

General Grounds for Refusal

The highly skilled tier will let Britain recruit some of the most successful people in the world. At the same time, we are toughening the immigration rules to make it easier to keep out migrants who we do not want. All PBS migrants will need to provide original documents to prove that they are entitled to the points they claim. Where we have any suspicions about the documents, we will conduct rigorous checks and will disregard any document that we cannot verify. Any application in which deception is used will be refused automatically.

Under the new rules, those who try to cheat their way into Britain by lying in their immigration applications will automatically be refused. Those who breach our immigration laws will be barred from returning to the UK for a fixed period of up to 10 years. This sends out the message that, although we welcome highly skilled migrants who wish to contribute to our society, we will not tolerate those who do not play by the rules.

Anyone who has used deception when applying for a visa will have any future applications to come here refused for 10 years. Anyone who has used deception in any other application, or committed any other breach of the rules, will be refused permission to come back for the following periods, depending on how they left the UK after doing what they did:

ten years if they were removed or deported;

five years if they left voluntarily at public expense (eg through an assisted voluntary return); or

one year if they left voluntarily at their own expense.

Where migrants have left the UK at public expense, we will also require them to repay the cost of their departure if they want to return, once we have introduced primary legislation that allows us to do so.

Tier 1 (General)

We are implementing the PBS Tier 1 (General) route for highly skilled migrants, and their dependants. The route will be open to migrants applying in-country from 29 February 2008; and open to applicants applying overseas in India from 1 April 2008. The route will be opened to all applicants applying overseas by the summer. Tier 1 (General) builds upon the success of the highly skilled migrant programme (HSMP) in attracting and retaining the most talented migrants who have the most to contribute economically.

PBS Tier 1 (General) will create a rigorous and single stage application process. India is our most important market for Tier 1 (General) so we are starting there.

I announced PBS fees in a Written Ministerial Statement laid on 30 January.

The points-based system will be simpler, with clearer and more consistent outcomes for all parties. We are laying immigration rules today that will support those objectives by:

simplifying the process for introducing specified application forms and procedures for applications or claims in connection with immigration.

amending the rules for indefinite leave to remain as a work permit holder to allow time spent as a highly skilled migrant or PBS Tier 1 (General) to count towards the current five-year qualifying period for settlement. This will correct an inconsistency in the immigration rules whereby time spent as a work permit holder can count towards an application for indefinite leave to remain as a highly skilled migrant, but time spent as a highly skilled migrant does not count towards an application for indefinite leave to remain as a work permit holder.

Doctors in training

There are a limited number of postgraduate and speciality training posts in the NHS and in recent recruitment rounds significant numbers of UK-trained doctors have been displaced by doctors who have trained abroad. We are therefore amending the immigration rules to reduce the level of competition for training posts in the short-term.

Highly skilled migrants, Tier 1 (General) migrants and their dependants will, in certain circumstances, have a condition imposed on their leave to enter or remain in the UK prohibiting them from taking employment as a doctor in training. This condition will not apply to migrants already in the UK with leave as a highly skilled migrant or as a postgraduate doctor/dentist undertaking the foundation course. These restrictions will be temporary pending the Department for Health implementing a sustainable solution to NHS recruitment issues.