HL Deb 13 December 2001 vol 629 cc227-8WA
Lord Archer of Sandwell

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to enable highly skilled individuals to come to the United Kingdom to seek employment. [HL2039]

Lord Rooker:

Currently, it is not possible for individuals, other than those with ancestral ties to the United Kingdom, to come to this country to seek and take up work in the absence of a job offer. This makes it difficult to attract highly mobile people with the special talents that are required in a modern economy. We are therefore introducing a programme specifically for highly skilled migrants which will enable them to come to the United Kingdom and seek work.

This programme is designed to allow highly skilled people to migrate to the United Kingdom in order to seek and take up work. It differs from the work permit scheme as it does not require an employer to obtain a permit for the individual, and from the existing business routes (for example, the Innovators scheme or other business categories) in that it does not require a detailed business plan or investment in the United Kingdom. It will initially be run as a concession outside the current Immigration Rules.

In order to qualify, applicants will need to demonstrate that they score 75 points or more. Points can be scored in five areas: educational qualifications, work experience, past earnings, achievement in chosen field and Highly Skilled Migrant Programme priority applications. This final area has been specifically designed to facilitate the recruitment and retention of suitably qualified overseas doctors who wish to work as general practitioners for the National Health Service.

I am today placing in the Library a draft version of the guidance to applicants. This includes full details on how an individual can score sufficient points to meet the standard required to qualify under this programme. Applicants will also have to demonstrate that they can continue their chosen careers and that they will be able to maintain and accommodate themselves and any family whilst in the United Kingdom.

Those already in the United Kingdom in a capacity leading to settlement may apply directly to the Home Office to obtain this status. We will also allow those graduating from a United Kingdom university or completing their post-graduate medical studies to apply while remaining in the United Kingdom, provided they have not been sponsored by their home governments.

The Highly Skilled Migrant Programme will run for an initial period of 12 months and will come into force in January 2002. Application forms will be available from the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office websites at www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk and www.fco.gov.uk respectively. Applications will be accepted by diplomatic posts overseas from 28 January 2002.

This programme represents a further step in developing our immigration system to maximise the benefits to the United Kingdom of highly skilled workers who have the qualifications and skills required by United Kingdom businesses to compete in the global marketplace. It 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.