The Home Office has admitted urgent action is needed to shorten the time it takes to process the applications of foreign recruits into UK organisations.
Employers trying to plug skills gaps with foreign talent are having to wait as long as three months before their new employees can start work, because the Home Office cannot handle the visa workload.
The chronic skills shortage facing UK employers, particularly in sectors such as construction, health and hospitality, means that many employers are looking abroad to expand their talent pool. This is something that was supposed to have become easier with the accession of 10 new countries to the European Union in May this year.
However, people who applied for jobs in July are still waiting for their applications to be processed, according to the most recent government update.
When an individual who is already in the UK wishes to take a job or changes jobs, they need to apply to the Home Office to change their immigration status under its ‘leave to remain’ scheme.
But organisations have been unable to hire workers because there are not enough staff to handle the volume of applications at the Home Office’s Work Permits UK division.
A Home Office spokesperson told Personnel Today the process was currently taking longer than they would have liked, but that urgent action was already in hand to improve the situation.
“We continue to deliver a speedy service to customers for work permits – most employers receive a decision within a week,” the Home Office said. “But we must continue to ensure that applications are given careful consideration – as the public would expect.”
The Home Office presently has four teams of around 20 people handling applications, but hopes to have a fifth team “shortly”.
They hope to ease the backlog by giving priority to people who are changing jobs, where the immigration decision is usually straightforward.
HR and migrant workers
Almost one in three employers (28 per cent) is planning to recruit workers from overseas this autumn
Among larger companies (more than 500 employees), this figure rises to 40 per cent
Recruitment from abroad varies from region to region. In London, 45 per cent of employers intend to recruit from abroad, compared with only 13 per cent in the North East
The public sector is most likely to turn to migrant workers – 34 per cent of public sector employers are planning to do so, compared with 27 per cent in the private sector, and 24 per cent in the not-for-profit sector.
Source: CIPD quarterly HR trends