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Everything you want to know about employing migrants

A complete guide

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22nd June 2010: Migrant workers deliver, undoubtedly. So if you wish to employ migrant workers legally, but do not know how to go about it, read on.

If you want to employ a migrant or enroll a migrant as a student, you must be their sponsor during their stay in the United Kingdom, unless they are coming here for six months or less in certain circumstances. And before you can sponsor a migrant, you must obtain a sponsor licence.

Before you apply, you should check whether you are eligible to apply for a licence, and make sure that you have the right human resource (HR) systems in place to comply with your sponsorship duties.

The UKBA service standards set out how quickly it aims to decide sponsor licence applications. The standard is that it will decide 65 per cent of applications within four weeks.

The agency believes: `The overwhelming majority of employers and migrants to the UK are law-abiding and want to comply with their legal obligations. We are keen to support them and make this as simple as possible’.

To begin with, you should go through the UKBA checklist to ensure you meet all the requirements to be a sponsor. If you meet the requirements, you will need to think about the type of licence you want and the way that you will operate as a sponsor. The UKBA ten-step guide will help you.

The UKBA asserts: Illegal working hurts good business, undercuts legal workers and creates illegal profits. It also puts illegal workers themselves at great risk. By working together with employers, we can level the playing field and tackle the exploitation of vulnerable migrants.

Unless an employer checks that all prospective employees have the right to work in the UK, it risks breaking the law and could receive a substantial fine.

Since 27 January 1997, employers have had a duty to check that all new employees are entitled to work in the United Kingdom. This check gives them a defence against conviction or an excuse against payment of a civil penalty if they are later found to have employed an illegal migrant worker. The law on preventing illegal migrant working has occasionally been revised since then, most recently and notably on 29 February 2008.

If you are licensed to sponsor skilled workers or students from outside the EEA or Switzerland under the points-based system, you can use a migrant’s identity card – which provides evidence of the holder’s nationality, identity and status in the UK – to check their right to work or study here.

You are expected to look at the card carefully. It shows the holder’s entitlement to work, study or access public funds. Employers are not legally required to check documents, but the UKBA recommends you do so for everyone you wish to employ.

This will enable you to establish an excuse against having to pay a civil penalty if you are found to have employed someone who does not have the right to work in the UK; show that your recruitment process is open and transparent; and ensure that your recruitment practices do not discriminate against anyone because of their race.

If you have a sponsor licence under the points-based system (as an employer and/or an education provider), a failure to keep records on the migrants you are sponsoring could affect your suitability to be a sponsor.

You can even call the UK Border Agency Employers Helpline on 0300 123 4699.

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