Britain tightens curbs on non-EU migrant workers

LONDON, (Reuters) – Britain said yesterday it was  tightening curbs on foreign workers from outside the European  Union to increase the chances of British jobseekers at a time of  rising unemployment.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she was increasing the  educational and financial requirements for the most skilled  workers, such as scientists and lawyers, to cut around 12,000  overseas applicants during the coming year.

From April applicants will need a post-graduate, rather than  just graduate, qualification and command a salary of at least  20,000 pounds ($28,400), up from 17,000 pounds.

Employers seeking permission to hire overseas staff in  professions such as maths teaching which have been deemed a  shortage area will first have to advertise the posts to British  applicants for two weeks in government-run recruitment centres.

“These measures are not about narrow protectionism,” said  Smith. “A flexible immigration system, rather than an arbitrary  cap, is better for British business and the British economy.

Unemployment in Britain is at its highest for a decade with  jobless numbers nearing 2 million as recession-hit firms axe  staff.

The tighter job market has put a renewed focus on the use of  overseas workers. British construction workers protested this  month over the hiring of foreign contractors at a number of  power projects across the country.

The immigration changes will be managed under a points  system introduced last year to manage the number of foreign  workers from outside the European Union.

The Home Office says it issued around 106,000 work permits  to skilled foreign workers last year. Britain has already closed  entry to non-skilled workers.

The opposition Conservative party, which wants a limit on  immigration, said the measures would have little effect.

“Jacqui Smith is just tinkering around the edges of the  immigration system,” said Conservative spokesman Damian Green.

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