A senior Home Office immigration figure has told employers not to panic about the points-based system going live across the UK next month.
By the end of November, Tiers 2 and 5 of the government scheme to limit the numbers of migrant workers coming to the country will have been launched, meaning employers wishing to hire skilled workers and temps from abroad will need to be registered sponsors.
Despite television advertising and an online application process, less than 300 organisations have been granted sponsorship licences. This leaves up to 60,000 employers still to apply, all of which risk breaking the law as soon as December.
But Matthew Coats, director of immigration at the Home Office, told Personnel Today: “We’re satisfied with the number of employers applying to become sponsors. Not everyone will need foreign workers on day one [of the new system].”
Coats explained that many migrant employees’ current work permits would not run out for a few years, meaning there was no rush to move across to the new system. He also quashed fears from legal experts about a huge bottleneck of applications leading to delays.
“The overlap [between the old and new system] will depend on individual workers, but we don’t anticipate there to be a big problem,” he insisted.
Employers suspected of hiring migrant workers illegally could face fines of up to £10,000 per worker under the law introduced in February. But Coats said the government out to help employers comply.
HR directors have warned that the sponsorship application process is too confusing, but Coats encouraged any organisations experiencing difficulties with the new immigration system to ring the national helpline on 08450106677 or visit www.bia.homeoffice.gov.uk.