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Important Changes to the Work Permit Regime

From the end of November 2008, employers wanting to employ skilled or temporary workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland will have to apply under a new points-based system.

Under the new system, migrant workers will be divided into three tiers:
            • the highly skilled worker tier (tier 1)

            • the skilled worker with a job offer tier (the equivalent of the existing work permit category) (tier 2) and

            • the youth mobility and temporary worker tier (tier 5).

Although the new structure has been well publicised, the UK Border Agency of the Home Office has only just published their Sponsorship Policy Document, which contains the new rules.  Unfortunately it is also 130 pages long!

What is coming as a surprise to many employers is that, in order to make an application under tiers 2 or 5, employers must have obtained a “sponsor licence”, and will be obliged to "sponsor the arrival" of each individual.

Licences will cost from £300 for smaller businesses up to a maximum of £1,000, and each sponsorship application will cost a further £170.  Sponsor licences are currently taking between 4-6 weeks to obtain, and if your requirements are urgent, then you need to be considering making that application very soon.

The UK Border Agency is advising that employers who want to employ overseas workers at the end of November will have to apply for the sponsor licence no later than 1 October.  In our view, if you are in a position to do so, then you should consider applying now.  The forms and guidance notes are extensive and quite complex.  Sponsor employers will also need to appoint key personnel to manage their functions as a sponsor, including an authorising officer, a level 1and a level 2 user, and a key contact.  The UK Border Agency is saying it will monitor sponsors’ compliance with the rules, which may include on-site visits.

We are promised that this system will eventually streamline the application process, so that from 1 April 2009, the UK Border Agency says it will process all licence application within 4 weeks.  They tell us that they are setting "slightly longer timescales" between now and April; so it is vital therefore that you address any compliance issues now.

We can help you with the application forms and explain the changes in the regulatory framework. Laytons can provide an audit service to ensure all questions are answered correctly, and that all required documents, in original or certified copy form, are provided.  

If you would like further details, then speak to your usual Laytons contact, or please contact:

London :        James Davies, on 020 7842 8000

Guildford:     Ben Crichton, on 01483 40700

Manchester: David Royden, on 0161 834 2100

For PDF version of this focus sheet please click here