Immigration is in the headlines again with the newspapers reporting that net migration is at a high of nearly 300,000. Whether or not the continuing political debate around the issue will result in further changes to the immigration rules remains to be seen. In the meantime, we highlight a number of immigration changes that employers need to be aware of:   

Changes to Right to Work Checks

  • Biometric Residence Permits (BRP) have been issued to certain migrants applying to remain in the UK since 2012. From March 2015, a roll out of BRP will commence with such cards being issued to applicants who intend to enter the UK from overseas for more than 6 months. The roll out will be implemented over a number of months. The timing of when the new rules apply will depend on which country the person is entering the UK from.
  • Once the new rules apply, those who apply to enter the UK for more than 6 months will be issued with a short stay vignette (for 30 days) and a letter of approval which will contain details of a local Post Office branch from where an individual should collect his or her BRP when they arrive in the UK. The individual is required to collect his or her BRP within 10 days of the date of their entry stamp.
  • If changes to travel plans mean that the migrant cannot enter the UK within the 30 day period, a further vignette can be applied for, subject to an additional fee.
  • If the migrant needs to start work in the UK before they have collected their BRP, the employer can carry out a right to work check using the vignette (and can carry out a further BRP check once that has been obtained).
  • The current guidance for employers on how to carry out right to work checks, updated in December 2014 is here.  

Increase in Allocation of Certificates of Sponsorship

  • For employers which have a Sponsorship Licence, unused Unrestricted Certificates of Sponsorship for the current period will expire on 5th April 2015.
  • Some employers have been selected for automatic renewals of Certificates of Sponsorship with effect from 6 April 2015. For those selected for automatic renewal, they will receive the same number of Certificates of Sponsorship as they used this year. Additional Certificates of Sponsorship can be requested after 6 April 2015.
  • For those employers who have not been selected for automatic renewal, they should apply for a new allocation as soon as possible so that this allocation will be available for use from 6 April 2015.   

NHS Surcharge for Tier 2 (General) Migrants (and others)

  • From April 2015, it is likely that a £200 fee per person per year will be payable for each Tier 2 (General) Migrant. This is to meet some of the costs of providing NHS services to migrant workers. It will also apply to most other migrants who are applying for a visa of 6 months or more. Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) migrants will be exempt from the fee.
  • This cost is likely to have to be paid up front at the time of entry, for the total number of years that the migrant plans to stay in the UK. So in the case of someone applying for a 5 year visa, a fee of £1,000 would be payable for the Tier 2 (General) migrant at the time they enter the UK.
  • A lesser fee is payable by students of £150.
  • Migrants who have paid the fee will need to comply with NHS pre-registration requirements. When accessing treatment, those who have paid the surcharge will have to produce their BRP.
  • Employers do not have to meet the costs of the NHS surcharge fee, but some may choose to do so.   

Tier 1 (General)

This immigration route, which was for highly skilled workers was closed some time ago for new applicants. However, for those individuals who have a Tier 1 (General) visa, they should be aware that this route will close for extension applications on 6 April 2015. Employers who employ individuals with this sort of visa, may wish to discuss this deadline with their employees.