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Guest comment: Changes to the UK's immigration laws

Ben Sheldrick, partner at law firm Magrath & Co on the winners and losers from changes to the UK's Highly Skilled Migrant Programme.

Are you a non-EU national hoping to work in the UK financial services industry? If you are, it's worth being aware of some recent changes to the country's Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP).

Announced by Liam Byrne, Minister for Immigration, Nationality and Citizenship in November, the new rules vary the criteria for entry under the scheme. It is now necessary to earn 75 points, whereas in the past the threshold was set at 65.

Some individuals will continue to benefit under the new system. For example, additional points are still available if you have a PhD or are aged less than 27.

Equally, however, some individuals will lose out. In particular, the new rules will make it more difficult to come and work in the City of London if English is not your first language. Under the changes, the government has introduced a requirement specifying that in order to qualify for the HSMP, people must prove that they have a good level of English language knowledge, both written and oral - and provide evidence to confirm this. This is part of the government's policy to ensure integration of all newcomers to the UK.

Acceptable evidence includes an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) report form, or proof that your Bachelors degree was taught in English.

And if you can't provide this evidence, you won't be allowed in - at least not under the HSMP. Regardless of any other points scored, if the language criteria is not met, the new rules say an application will be refused.

So what can you do if your English isn't up to scratch? The obvious answer is to start learning, fast. Another alternative may be to find an employer who will sponsor you under the work permit scheme, for which fluency in English isn't mandatory.

How to earn HSMP points:

1. Qualifications:


Masters: 35

Bachelors: 30

2. Previous earnings:

Points can be obtained from gross earnings before tax for a period of 12 months out of the 15 months prior to submission of the application whether in salaried or self employment. Earnings do not have to be with a single employer and can be totalled from several part time jobs.

The number of points awarded for previous earnings will depend upon your country of origin. If you've been working in a 'Band A' country (eg. Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, or the US), points will be awarded on the following basis:

40,000+: 45

35,000+: 40

32,000+: 35

29,000+: 30

26,000+: 25

23,000+: 20

20,000+ 15

18,000+: 10

16,000+: 5

3. UK experience

5 points can be claimed by an applicant who has previous experience of living in the UK if either they have successfully scored points under the previous earnings category and earnings were in the UK; or they have studied and graduated at Bachelor degree level or higher in full-time higher education in the UK, or at a UK-based overseas educational institution, for at least one full academic year.

4. Age

27 or under: 20

28 or 29: 10

30 or 31: 5

32 or over: 0

5. MBA provision:

An applicant must prove he or she has graduated from an eligible MBA programme; and provide evidence that clearly demonstrates this. If they qualify, 75 points are automatically awarded.

Ben Sheldrick is a partner at Magrath & Co. He can be reached via email:

AUTHORBen Sheldrick Insider Comment
  • mo
    12 April 2007

    the British can get a work permit in Mauritius in just 3 days and pays only Rs 10,000. They dont even need to show any academic certificate!!

  • Ri
    15 March 2007

    I think the rules for the earnings calculation is really unjust for HSMP. I have a bachelor's degree in IT and I live in Mauritius. To be able to score enough points I need to have a salary of 14000 GBP per year(35 points).

    Ridiculous! This salary is something that even managers don't get here!

    Some senior managers with 10 years plus of experience in big companies might be getting this money but not normal IT engineers or managers. I am a project manager and my salary is half of that. Experienced programmers get 1/3 of that amount.

    I don't understand why this is so. Mauritius is not a developed country. It's currency is the rupee, the same as India, with almost the same value. We can be compared to India but we are less well developed in many respects. For India to get 45 points, you need to have a salary of 7000 GBP p.a.! And we need to have 17500 GBP!!! Even Ministers don't get to have this kind of salary! Why is there such a big gap? Does the UK government think that Mauritius is a first-world country? Or does it want to attract only the very high-caliber senior executives? Has there been any research on the average earnings of the Mauritius population?

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