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Penalty time in immigration law shake-up

David Woods , 28 Oct 2008

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Employers have been slow to apply for the licences they need, under new rules, to hire immigrant staff from outside the European Economic Area.

Time is running out for UK businesses to get a licence to hire immigrant staff.

UK employers will need a licence to employ workers from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland from the end of this month.

The UK Border Agency (UKBA)said it expected 20,000 applications by now but had only received about 300. It said only applications received on or before 1 October would be guaranteed a licence in time.

Further reading

In September HR reported that, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, 88% of employers had not applied for a licence and 60% said they were unsure if they had the systems to provide UKBA with all the information needed.

To be licensed as a 'sponsor' the employer has to demonstrate it is a bona fide organisation operating lawfully in the UK, is trustworthy and is adjudged to be capable of carrying out its duties as a sponsor.

John Philpott, chief economist at the CIPD, voiced concerns about the short-term future when the new rules come into effect. "This is the biggest ever shake-up to immigration law," he said. "In principle it simplifies the problem for employers, but changing systems always lead to confusion. Companies might now face stiff penalties if they break the rules because they are ignorant of them." He suggested employers might not have known about the new legislation until late in the day, adding:"The documentation is lengthy so this could be an administrative nightmare for some in November."

A Home Office spokeswoman told HR: "We have been doing all we can to promote the changes. We have had advertising campaigns in magazines, newspapers and on television - and we will carry on."

Scott James, counsel at law firm Faegre and Benson, concludes: "Like it or not, employers wanting to continue bringing migrant workers to the UK will need to meet these challenges - and soon."

- To read Scott James' full Immigration Update, click HERE

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