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UK new immigration bill published

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The UK government's new immigration bill released last week does not include a points system for immigration. Although ministers want a points system for economic migrants that would grant visas on the basis of skills, the details will be put out for consultation later in the summer. The scheme does not require a law change so is not included in the bill. It remains unclear how this may affect the existing Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, which also works on a points-based system.

Under the new proposed scheme, an independent advisory board would identify gaps in the workforce, and visa applicants would gain extra points for skills in those areas.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke said: "The route to settlement is through skilled labor. This means that the more skilled you are, the more likely you are to be able to stay."

Skilled workers who support themselves financially will be granted permanent residence after five years, provided they prove their ability to use English fluently. The Bill includes a proposal to introduce fines of up to £2,000 per employee for employers who recruit illegal workers. Anyone found to be knowingly employing illegal workers or exploiting them could also face a two-year jail sentence and an unlimited fine. It is unclear how this measure differs from the past, as such fines were introduced many years ago.

The Bill also includes measures to tighten immigration controls, which include data sharing between border agencies. The government says that this would enable police, the immigration service and customs officers to access passenger information more easily, in order to identify individuals who pose a security risk.

The plans also support the global rollout of fingerprinting visa applicants, which would enable immigration officers to verify identities against biometric details in travel documents.The Bill would also limit rights of appeal for those refused entry to the UK to work or study, as well as restrict appeals in family visit cases to close family members only.

Immigration Minister Tony McNulty said that the Bill would help to "deliver a system that is strictly controlled, fair and works in the economic interests of Britain".