More news on the proposed points system for immigration to the U.K. Under new rules, applicants would have to prove proficiency in English, the idea being of course that this will mean more skilled workers pass the screening and unskilled workers will be kept out.

Time for me and my trusty Raymond Murphy (gold standard of dry grammar texts) to go forth and illuminate the non-English speaking masses!

As is typical after new, sweeping changes are proposed to these complex systems, it becomes apparent that sometimes, in some cases the requirements might be undesirable and potentially, well, silly.

No one would argue that a professional footballer is a highly skilled, highly specialized worker, and of the category that’s very desirable for a certain small class of British employers – club managers. Yet it does seem odd to suddenly require they have a certain command of English. It doesn’t seem to have been an impediment to their specific type of highly skilled labor up until this point, why should it matter now?

Now, football players aren’t exactly an oppressed immigrant group and in the end I can’t muster much sympathy for them: they certainly have the money to hire private tutors and probably have the money to get someone to cheat on their tests for them if the situation were that desperate. When you have the money, these types of regulations seem to become less important. I get the feeling the article was framed in terms of footballers just to try to get reader attention.

About the test and the points system  themselves the article says:

  • “The immigration minister, Liam Byrne, said that there would have been 20,000 fewer migrants coming to Britain last year had the new rules been in force.”
  • “A vacancy will have to be advertised for at least two weeks (one week in the case of jobs with salaries above £40,000) before a migrant can be recruited from outside Europe.”
  • “It is expected the new requirement will prevent 5% of existing skilled migrants coming to Britain. The Home Office estimates that English proficiency raises productivity by 20%. “ [BTW – Where do they get estimates like that? What on earth is it based on? I hate random floating statistics like that. Infuriating!]
  • “The Home Office estimates that if the new rules had been in place last year then 85,800 skilled workers and their dependants would have moved to Britain, compared with the 97,600 who successfully secured work permits.”

And this is comforting:

Migrants will also have to show they are competent in English, although ministers’ plans to insist on a GCSE-level standard have been dropped. Instead new skilled migrants will be expected to speak to a “basic-user standard”, using familiar everyday expressions, and be able to discuss basic personal details.

Ok, so they’re not totally unreasonable assholes. At least there’s that.