Earlier today, I wrote about a Canadian province's efforts to promote itself as a destination that welcomes H-1B visa holders and their families.
I also referenced the UK's attempts to modify its immigration system so that it attracts more highly skilled foreigners and fewer folks that strain public resources such as housing and schools, a concern in a country with an annual inflow of a half-million immigrants.
This Bloomberg story provides more details on the UK's shift from a system of 80 categories under which folks could apply for visas to a new five-tier, points-based system. Education and previous wages are the primary qualifications under the new system.
The first tier, introduced earlier this year, is for doctors, academics, computer experts and bankers. Tier 2 and Tier 5, for employees with job offers and temporary workers, will also be introduced this year. Tier 4, for students, will be added next year. Tier 3, for low-skilled workers, will come last.
Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Michael Dell would not qualify for the Tier 1 level under this system, since none of them have college degrees, point out critics. In addition to a degree, Tier 1 requires a record of past earnings and the ability to speak and write English to the standard of a C-grade at the GCSE exams, a level that a third of 16-year-old UK students failed to reach in 2007.
Government officials answer these concerns by noting that investor and entrepreneur visa options are available for those who might lack degrees but who are willing to invest certain amounts in British businesses or in UK stocks and bonds. (These sound similar to the EB-5 visa in the U.S.)
Other concerns mentioned in the article: The new system doesn't address the problem of illegal immigration. It makes "nit-picky" demands of employers, who will be required to monitor their Tier 2 foreign staffers, reporting such details as unexplained absences from work.
Says Keith Vaz, a Labour Party lawmaker who heads Parliament's Home Affairs Committee:
It was introduced without proper consultation of the very communities that were going to be affected. They're just worried about numbers. The problem is with illegal immigration. The way they're dealing with it is trying to stop legal immigration.