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Closing time for the potential sponsors

The UKBA received only 300 applications for licence to hire immigrant staff

03 November 2008. The UK Border Agency (UKBA) said it expected 20,000 applications by now, but had only received about 300. The UKBA said only applications received on or before 1 October would be guaranteed a licence in time. But there are 60,000 employers still to apply, all of which risk breaking the law as soon as December.

In September, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, 88% of employers had not applied for a licence and 60% said they were unsure if they had the systems to provide UKBA with all the information needed.

To be licensed as a ‘sponsor’ the employer has to demonstrate it is a bona fide organisation operating lawfully in the UK, is trustworthy and is adjudged to be capable of carrying out its duties as a sponsor.

From 27 November 2008 employers wishing to bring non-European Economic Area migrants to the United Kingdom under tiers 2 and 5 will need to be a licensed sponsor.

Matthew Goats, director of immigration at the Home Office, said: "We’re satisfied with the number of employers applying to become sponsors. Not everyone will need foreign workers on day one of the new system."

Goats explained that many migrant employees’ current work permits would not run out for a few years, meaning there was no rush to move across to the new system. "The overlap between the old and new system will depend on individual workers, but we don’t anticipate there to be a big problem," he insisted.

Employers suspected of hiring migrant workers illegally could face fines of up to £10,000 per worker under the law introduced in February.

John Philpott, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), voiced concerns about the short-term future when the new rules come into effect. "This is the biggest ever shake-up to immigration law," he said. "In principle it simplifies the problem for employers, but changing systems always lead to confusion. Companies might now face stiff penalties if they break the rules because they are ignorant of them." He suggested employers might not have known about the new legislation until late in the day, adding:"The documentation is lengthy so this could be an administrative nightmare for some in November."

A Home Office spokeswoman told HR: "We have been doing all we can to promote the changes. We have had advertising campaigns in magazines, newspapers and on television – and we will carry on."

Scott James, counsel at law firm Faegre and Benson, concludes: "Like it or not, employers wanting to continue bringing migrant workers to the UK will need to meet these challenges – and soon."

Employers who have not yet applied for a sponsor’s licence and wish to bring in migrants under tiers 2 and 5 need to apply for licence as soon as possible.

 The potential sponsors can apply here for a licence.

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