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Points-based system begins

29 February 2008

The system will help attract the most talented people with skills the UK needs, ensuring only immigrants with something to offer move here.

The biggest shake-up of the immigration system in 45 years is now underway, as the new points-based visa system (new window) is in place.

A new licensing system has also begun for employers who want to recruit skilled workers to the UK from overseas. All companies wishing to receive a sponsor’s licence must apply in advance with the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA).

Attracting the people we need

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the Australian-style points system will ensure that only people with skills the country needs can work in the UK.

She pointed out that immigrants benefit this country economically, contributing an estimated £6bn to the national output. 'It is right that we have a system which is fair but firm; accessible but controlled.' 

Alongside plans to ensure Britain has access to the skills and talents it needs, rogue employers will now face civil penalties of up to £10,000 for each illegal worker they hire.

Those found to have hired illegal workers knowingly could incur an unlimited fine and a prison term.

Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said the new penalties mean 'instant justice' for firms that break the law

'The key to shutting down illegal immigration is to shut down illegal jobs,' he said. 'Last year we stepped up our illegal working operations by 40%. Now our enforcement teams have a host of new powers to shut down dodgy bosses who draw illegal immigrants to Britain.'

Huge changes underway in immigration

As the measures announced today take effect, the government is also taking steps to target rogue employers through new legislation contained in the Employment Bill. It proposes tough penalties for businesses that fail to pay workers at least the minimum wage, and for agencies that exploit workers.

This government is also launching a new UK Border Agency, to ensure we have one of the toughest border protection systems in the world.

Further measures will include

  • introducing a new system to count people in and out of the UK
  • ID cards for foreign nationals to strengthen enforcement, and help keep out those who don't have the right to live here

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