· 2 min read · Features

Supporting foreign talent: How HR can bring families together

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Working away from family can be tough so HR should assist here to prevent losing valuable talent

While the Home Office is making it more challenging and costly to employ non-EU workers, many organisations still rely heavily on overseas workers as skills remain scarce, particularly in sectors such as healthcare and IT. But working away from loved ones can be tough for foreign employees – and businesses can lose these valuable skills if they return home. HR can play an important role in supporting foreign workers, as many turn to their employers for help in making arrangements for eligible family members to join them in the UK.

While this is a complex area of immigration law, there are some simple steps to follow. Firstly: know who is eligible. Most non-EU workers can bring over family relatively easily as long as they meet the requirements of being a dependant, such as a partner or child under 18. But if a child is over 18 at the time of their first application then they can't enter the UK.

Joining family members will then need to apply to the Home Office for an initial visa. This is where HR can help by providing advice for filling out online applications, helping workers understand what documents to gather, and providing information on where the nearest visa application centre is.

Documents like passports will need to be submitted and biometric information such as fingerprints will also need to be taken. Dependants must show proof of their relationship to the non-EU worker and that they can be supported while in the UK. Non-EU sponsors (also known as Tier 2 workers) must demonstrate that they are A-rated, meaning they can accommodate and maintain family members for at least a month. HR can help by showing that the business can support in maintaining dependants. If an employer doesn’t want to cover maintenance costs for a month workers will need to show that they can cover this themselves.

Under British law the dependant will be required to meet the English language and important financial and ‘genuineness’ requirements. The Home Office must be convinced that a relationship is real and long term, and the couple intend to live together. However, if your worker is an EU citizen then they fall under EU law and their partners do not need to meet financial or language requirements. They share the same rights as their partner, as long as they are economically active in the UK, a jobseeker, or a self-sufficient individual.

Other dependants who aren’t immediate family members, such as grandparents or cousins, do not fall under the immigration rules unless there are serious compelling issues such as them being disabled, destitute, or living in a country where healthcare cannot be provided. However, any misleading applications could lead to a 10-year ban.

Finally, ensure your employees plan ahead, as applications tend to take anywhere between several weeks and months to process. Certain applications can be fast-tracked depending on the country and application, but more often than not they have to follow the standard procedure.

These steps and regular in-house training for HR can help bring separated families together while ensuring that application refusals are pre-empted and employers are not caught out. This will save time, money and the potential loss of valuable talent.

Jonathan Beech is managing director of immigration law firm Migrate UK