The Border and Immigration Agency (BIA), part of the UK Home Office, has announced a general increase immigration fees to be put before Parliament.
The new immigration fee structure will help fund “sweeping changes to United Kingdom border security over the next 12 months”, according to the Government.
The new points based system (PBS) for managing migration is due to be rolled out in March when the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) is replaced by the General Highly Skilled Migrants (GHSM), part of Tier 1 under the UK’s new immigration system.
The long awaited ‘Sponsor’ fee scale, payable by employers when the points based system starts this year, has also been published.
From September employers will be required to pay a one time “licence fee” of up to £1000 (£300 for small businesses and Charities) for the privilege of sponsoring migrant workers from outside the European Union and the European Economic Area.
Companies employing overseas workers will issue a ‘Certificate of Sponsorship’ (this will replace Work Permits) when Tier 2 kicks in around September 2008, which will cost employers a further £170 per employee. Candidates will also be charged a separate fee.
No wonder Lin Homer, BIA Chief Executive, describes the Government agency as a “business”.
The BIA say the system will help ensure only workers with the skills to benefit Britain’s economy come to the UK and put in place a licensing system for businesses who want to recruit from overseas. These new measures will help ensure people play by the rules.
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said:
“We believe that it is fair that those who benefit most from using our immigration system should help fund it.
“We welcome the contribution that legal migrants make to the economy and cultural life in the UK and we have ensured that these fees, which will usher in the biggest reforms to the immigration system in a generation, are at levels that will not damage our international competitiveness.
“We are confident that we are not out of line with other countries’ prices and that the people we want to come here will not be deterred from doing so.”
However, John Cridland, Deputy Director of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) which represents UK businesses, warned that ministers had structured the new levels of fees in a way that would make hiring cost effective the more people were employed, so that smaller companies would take more of a hit.
“By seeking to recover far more from the cost of processing the application, the government risks putting up a barrier to firms hiring people with the skills they need to grow and create jobs for the whole economy,” Mr Cridland said.
Many fees will increase by as little as £2.00, but the Home Office said that others will more than double.
Fees for Further Leave to Remain (FLR) under the Tier 1 GHSM will be set at £750 more than twice current HSMP fee of £350.
Highly skilled migrants will have to cough up a whopping £600 for a Tier 1 GHSM approval, increased from the current HSMP fee of GBP 400. This despite the fact that highly skilled people are one of the categories of migrants most sought after by the UK and the on-line points system should be far cheaper to run.
In a recent interview Mr Byrne said “we are trying to set prices at a level that reflects the value of the opportunity to come and work in Britain to the migrant.
“We put up visa fees very substantially last year in order to raise extra money, doubling our enforcement budget. We’ve kept price rises this year at quite modest levels.”
At a debate last week, organised by Compass, Mr Byrne said that legal migrants were worth £6 billion to the UK economy. Many employers, who help contribute towards that sum, will see the new fees as yet another ‘stealth tax’ on business.
It does seem ironic that migrants who come to the UK legally are footing the bill for keeping illegal immigrants out.