Tighter migrant regulations herald border police role for HR

Tighter immigration laws coming into effect this autumn will lead to confusion among employers, with HR professionals effectively becoming an unpaid border police force, experts have warned.

The Home Office last week set out the new rules for ‘skilled workers’, including a stipulation that employers show they attempted to recruit in the UK prior to hiring migrants. Would-be migrants will also need a job offer before they can apply for a visa.

Firms will have to ensure that any role filled by migrant workers is at NVQ Level 3 (A Level) or above. If Home Office officials subsequently find that an employer has made the wrong decision, the firm will be faced with the threat of losing its licence and having its migrant workers sent home.

Kerry Garcia, senior associate at law firm Stevens & Bolton, said the rules meant employers would have to take on wide-ranging obligations to obtain and retain a sponsorship licence for migrants.

Sponsors will be subjected to inspections to make sure they are complying with guidelines such as maintaining contact details and reporting prolonged absences.

“This has led to some employers claiming they will effectively become unpaid immigration officers,” she said.

John Philpott, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, warned that the government would have to display “considerable efficiency and dexterity” in introducing the system, to avoid widespread employer confusion and complaints.

“Care must be taken to ensure that decent employers who are simply confused by the new rules are not branded rogues,” he said.

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