The Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) launched its flagship points scheme last week, the biggest shake-up of the immigration system in 45 years, with the introduction of Tier 1 for highly skilled migrants.
According to the BIA, the points scheme will ensure that “only the best can work in Britain” and “will attract the most talented with the skills the UK needs to remain a global leader in the fields of finance, business, and technological innovation”.
During the lead in to the introduction of Tier 2 in September, the BIA will also begin licensing businesses that want to employ migrants form outside the European Union. There will also be on-the-spot fines of up to £10000 for those flouting the rules and caught hiring illegal workers.
The entire scheme will be rolled out over the next year or so, and kicks-off with new rules for highly skilled foreign nationals currently working in the UK who want to extend their stay.
Employers will need a licence to bring in Non-EU migrants
The Government will start the licensing system for employers who want to recruit from overseas and bring skilled workers into the UK. No company will be granted a sponsor’s licence without being approved in advance by the Border and Immigration Agency.
Employers bringing in skilled workers under Tier 2 can now start applying for the licence, as Work Permits will no longer be issued once Tier 2 takes effect this autumn.
Tier 2 could have serious consequenses for those workers, such as Senior Carers and possibly nurses, who, ity would appear, will not gain sufficient points to qualify for a visa extension under the points system.
Some Senior Carers are already moving jobs prior to Tier 2, because this is the only way they can secure a longer visa. See “Senior Carers in Snakes and Ladders…”
Announcing the scheme last Friday Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:
“The introduction of our Australian-style points system will ensure that only those with skills the country needs can come.
“Migrants benefit this country economically, contributing an estimated £6bn to our national output, as well as socially and culturally and it is right that we have a system which is fair but firm, accessible but controlled.
“Today’s proposals are part of the biggest changes to British immigration policy in a generation which include a new deal for those migrants seeking citizenship here, a new UK Border Agency to strengthen controls at the border and the introduction of ID cards for foreign nationals.”
Alongside the Government’s plans to ensure Britain has access to the skills and talents it needs, rogue employers from today face civil penalties of up to £10,000 for each illegal worker they employ.
Those found to have knowingly hired illegal workers could incur an unlimited fine and be sent to prison. The change comes as BIA stepped up action in 2007 against illegal working by 40 per cent.
New civil penalties will be easier to enforce and fines will be imposed
Fines and penalties for employing illegal immigrants are nothing new, however, a key difference is between this and the previous system is prosecutions will no longer have to be based on criminal law, where the process was longer and the burden of proof more stringent. As a result very few employers were prosecuted or even sanctioned.
Everything will change under the new ‘civil penalty’ system where fines can be imposed with minimal process, although a criminal offence for knowingly employing illegal workers will still exist for the more extreme cases.
In other words, employers (including individuals employing domestic staff) who perhaps unwittingly employ people without the right to work will be fined.
Bosses could be penalised by up to £10,000 per illegal employee, even if it was unintentional, but may escape the full penalty where they have carried out all of the employment checks in the prescribed manner.
But, if the checks have not been carried out or have been carried out incorrectly, there is a sliding scale of penalties, starting from £2,500.
The BIA has been running a campaign over the last couple of months to warn employers about employing overseas nationals illegally, so expect to see a tougher line.
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne added:
“Today sees the start of our points system and the beginning of on-the-spot fines for businesses who employ illegal workers, introduced a day ahead of schedule.
“New £10,000 penalties mean instant justice for those firms who try and undercut others by employing illegal immigrants. With the new compulsory identity cards for foreign nationals later in the year, there can be no excuse for not checking the identity of those applying for jobs.
“The key to shutting down illegal immigration is to shut down illegal jobs. Last year we stepped up our illegal working operations by 40 per cent. Now our enforcement teams have a host of new powers to shut down dodgy bosses who draw illegal immigrants to Britain.”
As the measures announced today take effect the Government is also taking steps to target rogue employers through new legislation in the Employment Bill. The Bill proposes tough new penalties for businesses not paying workers the minimum wage and agencies which exploit workers and undercut legitimate business.
Also confirmed is the establishment this year of a new UK Border Agency (replacing the only recently formed BIA) with the aim of ensuring that the UK has one of the “toughest borders in the world”.
Other measures include the introduction of a new system to count people in and out of the UK and ID cards to strengthen the UK border and help keep out those who don’t have the right to be here.
For further information on see:
Information for employers and sponsors