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December 14, 2001
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UK's 'open door' immigration policy woos skilled manpower

Highly skilled foreigners including those from India will be allowed to enter the UK to seek jobs under a new scheme heralding the biggest relaxation in immigration policy in 30 years.

The new 'open door' policy will be based on a points system similar to a Canadian model and is intended to attract highly skilled and high-earning migrants to fill skills shortages.

The Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, which starts in January 2002, offers admission to applicants who gain at least 75 points on its scale. Points will be awarded for educational qualifications, work experience, past earnings and achievements in a chosen field. There is also a specific category to boost the recruitment of general practitioners.

People holding a PhD will gain 30 points, those with a master's degree 25 points and graduates 15 points. At least five years' work experience in a graduate-level job will score 15 points.

Income points have been adjusted to take account of differing pay scales around the world. Someone earning 250,000 a year in America would get 50 points - the same score as a 90,000 annual salary in Nigeria.

An applicant from Japan or South Korea would be awarded 25 points if they earned 40,000 a year, whereas someone from India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Zimbabwe would only have to earn 15,000 to get the same number of points.

It differs from the existing system under which an employer must obtain a permit for an individual, which allows them to work in the country. There will be no limit on the number (of skilled workers) allowed to enter under the system.

The scheme announced last night is the first part of Home Secretary David Blunkett's plan for managed migration and is to be followed next year by a similar one for low skilled migrants.

The high-skill initiative, which will be piloted for a year, was announced as a Home Office report was published showing a net inflow of 1.2 million people into the UK between 1981 and 1999, with the annual inflow now running at 200,000. Britain has the third-largest foreign population and labour force in Europe after Germany and France.

Lord Rooker, a Home Office minister, said: "At the moment it is not possible for individuals, other than those with ancestral ties to the UK, to come to this country to seek and take up work without a job offer.

"This makes it difficult to attract highly mobile people with special talents that are required in a modern economy. It (the new policy) will allow eminent scientists to base their research projects here, should encourage the movement of business and financial experts to the City of London and give those at the top of their chosen profession the choice of making the United Kingdom their home."

Canada beckons 'thousands' of software engineers

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