Data file: Obtaining work permits for foreign workers

The latest in a series of articles that give the basics on key areas of
employment legislation.  This issue we
look at obtaining work permits for foreign workers

The hard facts

It is an offence, under section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996,
for an employer to knowingly employ individuals without the necessary UK
immigration permission. To comply with the legal requirements an employer must
obtain a work permit for all non-EEA nationals who do not qualify to enter the
UK and take employment under any other immigration category, for example
Commonwealth nationals with UK ancestry. Work permit applications are submitted
to Work Permits (UK) in Sheffield, a division of the Home Office. In support of
a work permit application, it is necessary to show:

– That there is a genuine vacancy in the UK, and

– That the overseas national possesses the skills, qualifications and
experience required for the position, and

– That the position requires a recognised degree-level qualification, or is
a senior-level position requiring at least three years’ relevant experience, or
requires high-level technical or similar skills and relevant specialised
experience, and

– That the post cannot be filled by a worker from the resident EEA labour
force, for example by advertising the position in a national newspaper, trade
journal or placing instructions with a recruitment agency.

It is not necessary to advertise the position in certain circumstances and
these include:

– Intra-company transfers

– Board-level posts, whether internally or externally appointed

– Inward investment – minimum investment of £250,000 by companies, not

– Shortage occupations. Work Permits (UK) recognises suitability qualified
persons in short supply in the UK, including certain IT positions and skills
and healthcare professionals.

Obtaining a work permit

It is not usually possible to "switch" immigration status while
the individual is in the UK, except where he or she is already here under
another long-term stay immigration category. It may therefore be necessary to
make arrangements for the proposed employee to leave the UK when the
application is submitted.

– Forms and timeframes

Work Permits (UK) now accepts applications by e-mail, provided that the
employer and, where applicable, its representative have pre-registered.
Alternatively, hard copy paper forms can be completed. Work permit applications
typically take between one and three weeks to process. Where genuine commercial
reasons exist it is possible to arrange for an application to be expedited.

Following approval of a work permit application

Visa applications for work permit-holders

Nationals of certain countries require a visa to enter the UK as well as a
work permit. A visa application cannot be made until after the work permit has
been issued and must be submitted to the relevant British mission in the
individuals’ home country or country of residence, before travelling to the UK.

– Dependants

Spouses and dependant children under the age of 18 years must obtain entry
clearance before accompanying the work permit-holder to the UK. Over-age
dependants may also be admitted to the UK where there are exceptional
circumstances which make exclusion from the UK undesirable, for example,
disabled children or elderly parents who have no other means of support. Also,
unmarried partners may be eligible to apply for entry clearance as the dependant
of a work permit-holder but only where there is a legal bar to marriage.

– Registration with the police

Following arrival in the UK, nationals of certain countries are required to
register with the police within seven days. Any accompanying spouse and children
aged 16 or over must also register.

Reading around the subject

– Work Permits (UK) provides guidance on the requirements of the work permit
scheme and application forms:

– The Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office provide advice on
visas: and

By Andrea Ferguson at Wragg & Co.

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