Cut through red tape to employ foreign workers

The Government has recently taken a number of measures in the hope of
achieving ‘managed migration’ into the UK. These acknowledge the difficulties
that many UK employers face in finding suitably qualified staff, along with the
huge number of illegal immigrants currently working within the UK.

Protection for employers

The Government has recently entered into consultation concerning its
proposed changes to the types of documents that provide a defence to the
employment of illegal workers.

It is alarmingly common for unsuspecting employers to find they have been
given forged immigration documents. These are usually forged National Insurance
documents, but can also be forged letters from the Home Office, or even
passports.

By changing the law providing a defence to employers, the Government hopes
that it will reduce the chances of illegal workers finding employment in the UK
and weed out employers who deliberately breach the law.

However, the proposed changes will continue to allow employers to use
passports as their sole basis of defence against employing illegal workers. But
how effective will the proposed changes be, considering forged passports are
often very difficult to identify?

It is strongly advisable for employers to take as many measures as possible
to ensure all employees are able to legally work in the UK – even if only to
limit the chances of an embarrassing visit from the immigration authorities.

Additional red tape in employing foreign nationals

The rules are also set to change in relation to non-visa nationals, or individuals
who do not normally need to get permission – ie a visa – before travelling to
the UK to work, study or visit. On 13 November 2003, the Government will start
a process aimed at ensuring that all non-visa nationals who intend to stay in
the UK for more than six months, obtain a visa before travelling. The change is
being introduced in stages. The first begins on 13 November 2003, and affects
citizens of the US, Canada, South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea,
Hong Kong, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. They will need to obtain a visa
before travelling to the UK, if they intend to come here for more than six
months. Naturally, the additional paperwork involved in making a visa
application will have a significant impact on how long it takes to bring an
employee from one of these countries over to work in the UK.

In addition, although all other non-visa nationals do not need to obtain a
visa until a later stage, they will find themselves only granted leave for a
period of six months on arrival, even if they have a work permit for five
years. These non-visa nationals will have to make a separate application to the
Home Office for an extension to their leave to remain, incurring a fee of at
least £155.

These changes have been bought about because the UK has opted into an EU
regulation concerning uniform and standard vignettes in non-European passports.
This is another attempt to reduce the scope for forgery and abuse of the
immigration and work permits system.

This is vitally important considering almost 200,000 work permits are being
issued every year. However, it is somewhat unfortunate that the new system is
reliant upon the efficiency of the UK’s overseas embassies and the Home Office
in Croydon. Employers could find themselves facing considerable delay in
bringing much-needed workers into the UK.

By Nicola Tiffin, Solicitor, employment & incentives department,
Lewis Silkin

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