Point Of No Return - UK Immigration Rules

Originally published in Chartered Secretary, June


Globalisation has had many effects – not least of

which is the advent of highly mobile workforces. As a result, the

UK's immigration rules are currently undergoing a huge


The new system is being introduced in tranches over the next few

years. The first changes are already in force, with the old Highly

Skilled Migrant Programme being replaced this year by a new

points-based system, where the sponsoring employer will need to

certify that the applicant meets certain minimum criteria. That

change will also be extended to the current work permit system, for

those seeking to come into the UK for a specific role with an

employer: again, a points-based system will supersede the current


What will this mean for employers? One important change that

employers should note is that they will need will need to first

register with the UK Immigration Authority and apply for a licence

before they can act as a sponsor for workers coming into the UK.

While the old work permit system has not yet been replaced,

employers can already register, although employers may wish to

delay formally applying for the licence until such time as the

Government has clarified how the new system will work. Even so,

employers would be well advised to start thinking about what

information they will need to apply for a licence now.

In conjunction with the new rules, the government has put the

responsibility for policing a worker's right to work in the UK

firmly at the door of employers. Compliance issues will come more

to the fore, and employers need to appoint an authorising officer,

who will be responsible for all compliance obligations –

such as advising the immigration authority should employees fail to

turn up to work.

Penalties will also become more stringent: under the

Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, an employer who now

knowingly employs an illegal worker can be subjected to an


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