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Stricter border controls for foreign workers

May 16, 2012
Make sure you don’t get caught out when employing foreign workers.

New regulations effecting the entitlement of people from overseas to work in the United Kingdom were highlighted in a presentation by Paul Jones from immigration consultants Emigra Europe Ltd at the Corporate Relocation Conference in London recently. The new regulations are complex and have serious implications, especially for companies employing skilled foreign workers in unskilled jobs. Here are some of the main points from Paul’s presentation.


The new legislation will create severe restrictions to global mobility here in the UK. It will be twice as difficult to get sponsorship for work visas and the administration process will cause time delays for applications which will make careful planning essential.

Despite the UK rules being stricter than the governance of the EU, the new regulations that have been set in place are in accordance with EU guidelines and will limit the number of people being granted visas for the UK. The new legal regulations put the responsibility squarely at the employer’s door and failure to comply could lead to fines and business suspension.

Since 1977, it has been an employer’s responsibility to ensure that legal requirements are met for any employees, making sure that they are legally allowed to work in the UK and annually checked for any changes they may have to their circumstances.

Obtaining a visa is based on a points system with five tiers of visa types.  Changes to the rules last October has meant that tier one for highly skilled workers has been closed down. In practice this has stopped foreign graduates from entering the UK and obtaining unskilled work. Graduates who have studied and graduated in the UK have two years to gain themselves a skilled job and this does not give them any settlement rights in this country.

Tier two visas are aimed at skilled workers who work for global organisations which are constantly moving key staff around the world using intercompany transfers.

Employers must go through extensive procedures and paperwork to apply for a sponsorship licence. All workers on the tier two system have to be sponsored and it is the responsibility of the employer to sponsor the migrant with a minimum salary of £24,000 per annum.  The visa is linked to the employer and if the worker moves to another company, then a new visa needs to be obtained.

Using the sponsored work visa is a very good way of moving staff around the globe. Staff can be brought in for 12 months initially on a starting salary of £24,000 and can then move to another country, returning to the UK after another 12 months.

The number of visas and restricted visas are subject to national quotas and a certificate of entry must be applied and paid for, for each individual. If there is a problem with their visa on application, then the certificate must be reapplied for.

The Border Agency is taking steps to break the link between work permits and settlement rights in the UK. To get a visa issued for a migrant worker, a company must undergo a labour market test. The company must prove that the role cannot be filled by the resident workforce, and must be advertised in accordance with regulations, which are updated regularly. A Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) vocation code is issued for each job and the salary must be set before a certificate of sponsorship can be issued.

The registration process for employers applying for a sponsorship licence has become stricter. Employers now have responsibility for the work that used to be done by the Border Agency and now have an obligation to track their workers. A good HR department is essential if your company employs a large number of migrants so that tracking, checking, logging and updating information on your employees is kept under control. The Border Agency will check your records and any non-conformance may affect your licence and ability to employ.

The biggest problem with the legislation on a practical level has been the large number of changes that have and are taking place, keeping up to date with those changes and remaining compliant.

For further information and advice about employing foreign workers visit the UK Border Agency website www.bia.homeoffice.gov.uk or contact Emigra Europe Ltd , 020 7766 5005 www.emigra.com.

Photo: Paul Jones presenting at the Corporate Relocation Conference.

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