As noted in the Spring 2008 Update, the UK Government has introduced a new “points based” immigration system. The new system replaces the existing Work Permit regime and with effect from November 2008 all applications for permission to bring “Workers” into the UK will have to be made by entities holding a Sponsorship Licence.

If you currently employ staff under the Work Permit system and expect to do so in the future, the Border and Immigration Authority (the “BIA”) are now encouraging registration for the new Sponsorship Licence. While we understand some aspects of the regime continue to be fine-tuned, companies which anticipate a need to bring individuals who are not automatically entitled to live and work in the UK should begin registration since we anticipate that the “bedding in” process at the BIA may mean applications take longer to process during the first months of operation.

Work Permits issued under the existing regime will remain valid and applications made prior to the end of October will be treated under the existing Work Permit regime. A side effect of the switchover is that applications under the existing regime are taking longer to process, up to 15 to 20 days compared to 5 to 10 days in previous years for straightforward applications.

If your organisation currently employs people under the Work Permit system, and expects to do so in future, you should be registering with the BIA as a Sponsor now.

Note that where an entity has yet to establish itself in business in the UK it will still be possible to make an application outside the UK to bring in one individual to establish UK operations under the Sole Business Representative regime. The BIA has said that it has no current plan to review the Sole Business Representative regime although it seems likely that in the long term the regime will be reviewed and may be amended.