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Britain Tightens Entry Rules for Foreign Workers

The British government has announced new immigration rules that will require non-European Union skilled workers to earn a certain number of points to enter and work in the country. The points-based system will also require applicants to show a level of competence in the English language. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report for VOA from London.

Had the new requirements been in place last year, a Home Office statement says, approximately 20,000 people from outside the European Union would not have been allowed into Britain.

The points are generally awarded only if a person can prove they will be doing skilled work, speak good English, and earn more than $48,000 a year.

Critics of the government's migration policies have dismissed the regulations as a political decision in response to growing anti-migrant sentiments.

But Jill Rutter, an immigration expert at the Institute for Public Policy Research says the new system simplifies the process for both job seekers and employers.

However, she says the government could have handled the migration debate better.

"I think the way government has chosen to announce these new regulations and the tone of the language that it has used has played into the anti-migrant lobby in Britain, has played to the anti-migrant media," Rutter said. "But if you look at what government is trying to do we would support it, it is trying to bring highly-skilled migrants to meet a real labor shortage."

Local companies will also need to prove the vacancy they are hiring a foreign worker for has been advertised in Britain and that they cannot fill the posts with a resident worker. Prospective migrants will need a job offer before they even apply for a visa, unless the job is on the shortage occupation list.

Rutter says the contribution of immigrants in critical areas is often overlooked.

"Our National Health Service has been built on the skills of migrants, doctors, nurses, cleaners, technicians, we need to make it easier for this group of people to enter and where needed to remain in the U.K.," Rutter said.

Starting in October, non-EU soccer players and managers will also be required to speak simple English to join top English clubs. The new rules will also affect artists coming to Britain for performances or festivals. They will have to apply for a newly introduced business-visit visa.