With less than nine months to go before the biggest shake-up in Work Permit history, employers and migrants have no idea how the new points system will actually work.
This week I met with Home Office representatives from the Points Based Team to discuss the key role of the sponsor, one of the major elements of the system.
A new breed of customer friendly “Account Managers” will help employers become sponsors when the Points Based System, which replaces the current Work Permits regime, kicks in next year. Regional units will be set up to give employers advice and support.
The eighty current routes into the UK will be combined under a five tier system: Tier 1 – Highly Skilled Migrants, Tier 2 – Skilled Workers, Tier 3 – Low Skilled Workers, Tier 4 – Students, and Tier 5 – Temporary Migrants and Others.
The Home Office expect Tier 1 to be introduced in January and Tier 2, which mirrors the present Work Permit standard for skilled workers, in the third quarter of 2008.
Work Permits will no longer be issued once Tier 2 comes on line. Employers applying for permission to employ an overseas worker and candidates renewing a Work Permit will have to apply under the points system and meet the new criteria.
Employers will be invited to register as sponsors sometime in 2008 and must do so in order to recruit non-EU nationals. Employers will be awarded an ‘A’ or ‘B’ rating based on a number of factors including their ability to manage the process and previous track record. Employers given a ‘B’ rating will be “supported” by account managers to get them up to an ‘A’ rating by means of action plans.
Employers will print off their own ‘Work Permits’
Those with an ‘A’ rating will be able to log-on to an on-line system and issue “Certificates of Employment”, which will replace Work Permits, to their overseas workers.
Overseas candidates will go through a separate on-line assessment to see if they gain sufficient points to meet the criteria, and will still have to apply for entry clearance. Employers will have access to their score before issuing the Certificate of Employment.
Entry Clearance Officers at British Embassy postings around the world will check Employment Certificates on a common IT System, which should speed up the process and combat fraud.
Sponsors will forecast the number of overseas workers they expect to take on during the year. Once agreed by their Account Manager, they will be allocated a batch of Employment Certificate numbers for later issue to overseas staff. Sponsors will be required to keep overseas staff records centrally and allow announced Home Office inspections.
This is a radical departure from current practice whereby ‘Work Permits UK’ caseworkers in Sheffield individually assess and check each application before a Work Permit is granted.
Employers will have more autonomy but also additional responsibilities to comply with immigration rules. Compliance checks will be carried out and sponsors who consistently fall foul of the rules will be removed from the register, preventing them from bringing in overseas workers. Despite this, the system does seem wide open to abuse by unscrupulous employers.
Business is seen by the Government as the “beneficiary” of overseas workers and will, therefore, be expected to pay for the service, although the fee structure is yet to be decided.
In a sense, employers already act as sponsors when they apply for a Work Permit for an overseas worker. The Home Office will formalise the duties and responsibilities of employers and, it appears, make it easier to bring in migrant workers.
However, the big question on health sector employer’s minds is whether or not Senior Carers and Nurses will gain sufficient points to even qualify for an Employment Certificate. I have yet to get an answer to this question.
If you should have any questions on working or studying in the UK email Charles Kelly firstname.lastname@example.org.