Immigration law changes

From
1 September 2002, all IT positions (except some electronic and opto-electronic
engineers) were removed from the shortage occupation list. Generally speaking,
this means all IT jobs must now be advertised throughout the European Economic
Area (EEA), considered by many employers to be both cumbersome and expensive.
However, Work Permits (UK) keep this list under review, so watch out for the
latest news.

Highly-skilled
migrant programme (HSMP)

The
HSMP has now been in operation for about nine months. It allows individuals,
rather than employers, to apply for leave to remain in the UK for an initial 12
months without actually having a job initially. HSMP applications are judged on
a points system which takes into account academic qualifications, experience
and achievements in a specialist field and level of earnings. Individuals who,
for example, have been made redundant and whose work permits are therefore no
longer valid, can often switch in-country to the HSMP.

Further,
the Home Office has stated recently that any period of time spent under the
HSMP, whether prior or subsequent to a work permit, may count towards the
four-year qualifying period to apply for indefinite leave to remain.

Work
permits and Swiss nationals

Following
the Bilateral Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, which came into force
on 1 June 2002, Swiss nationals now have the same right to work and reside in
the UK as EEA nationals. But beware – this arrangement is not immediately
reciprocal, it will be a further five years before UK nationals will be able to
work and reside in Switzerland without being subject to immigration controls.

Section
8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996

Employers
should ensure that any job offer is made subject to the individual providing
evidence of their right to live and work in the UK. A Code of Practice was
issued last year setting out how to establish the statutory defence under
Section 8, by seeing and copying one of a number of identifying documents.

To
avoid any claim of race discrimination, an employer should ask every candidate
offered a job to provide such evidence. Managers should be trained about this
and the need not to make assumptions about an individual’s right to work in the
UK based on nationality, race or colour. HR should also be aware that when
collating such evidence it must not infringe data protection principles. The
evidence needed will probably contain sensitive personal data and should
therefore only be used for that specified purpose and not for any other purpose
without the employee’s express consent.

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