February 15, 2012

The representative desk at the Public Enquiry Office is being closed at the end of this month to coincide with a February 29, 2012 requirement that foreign nationals issued with work and residence authorizations for more than six months obtain Biometric Residence Permits (BRP’s).   The UK Border Agency (UKBA) is also announcing changes for securing BRP’s that include a new online appointment system along with implementing a new online BRP verification system.  In addition, on April 6, 2012, certain foreign worker schemes will see an increase in government application fees.

What’s Changed?

The UKBA is reviewing their service provisions for issuing and renewing work and residence authorizations and for shifting the burden of costs of immigration services onto UK companies sponsoring foreign workers and to foreign workers who are not European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss nationals.

In an effort to re-align the provision of premium service appointments, the UKBA is closing its Public Enquiry Office in Croydon.   What this means is that UK immigration providers (“authorized representatives”) may still book appointments for clients and accompany clients to biometric appointments.  However, providers we will be subject to the same online booking system that will be available to the general public.

In spring 2012, the UKBA also intends to implement an online verification system whereby UK companies can check a foreign national’s BRP information to confirm he or she is authorized to work and reside in the UK.  Assignees and accompanying dependents will be required to have available valid BRP’s when departing and re-entering the UK and for work/residence purposes.

The proposed verification system is aligning with UKBA’s increased stance on enforcing compliance and exposing those employers willingly employing illegal workers.  As of February 10, 2012, the UKBA will publish quarterly reports detailing the penalties given to people or organizations who employ illegal workers.

In addition, on April 6, 2012, the UKBA intends to raise its government fees by as much as 50% for certain work permit applications and renewals.  For instance, the traditional ICT category of Tier 2 will see visa fees increase by 20%, from £400 (approx. US$630) to £480 (US$756).   Tier 2 ICT (for less than 12 months) will increase from £350 (US$551) to £400 (US$630).  The complete, proposed schedule of fees can be viewed at the following:

http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/aboutus/fees-spring-2012.pdf

ACTION ITEMS FOR EMPLOYERS

Until the UKBA role out more of the biometric enrollment centers in April 2012, immigration providers will have very little control as to the timings of BRP applications and when biometric appointments can be secured.

For assignees and family members filing initial BRP applications and for those renewing their status, estimated time to secure biometric appointments and BRP’s is at least 4-6 weeks.  As original passports are required for processing BRP’s, assignees and family members alike are cautioned against scheduling overseas travel until issuance of their BRP’s.

For very senior employees or individuals who travel frequently and for whom there is no choice, there is the “Super Premium Service”, which costs £6000 in addition to the standard premium service fees.  For this, the UKBA will send out a biometric enrolment team to an address of the requesting party’s choice. This is a service that can be booked in relatively short notice and is an option for UK companies with up to four assignees and their accompanying family members where there are several individuals needing their applications done simultaneously.

The UKBA is taking immigration compliance very seriously.  UK companies intending to hire any non-British nationals will be expected to perform an initial check of an applicant’s ability to work in the UK by reviewing the BRP information on the UKBA’s website.  In addition, all companies that are licensed by the UKBA to sponsor foreign workers must actively observe all immigration compliance measures required to file Certificates of Sponsorship.

Companies considering assignments should bear in mind that bottom-line costs may be on the rise due to increase in government application fees and the British government’s move to place more “self-service” on foreign nationals applying to enter the country.

This news alert was provided in coordination with our UK KGNM–Sarah Buttler Associates.

Caveat Lector | Warning to Reader

This content is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or final guidance for any immigration matter. Readers are reminded that a country’s immigration laws and requirements may change with little to no advance public notice. Questions regarding specific immigration matters should be addressed to your Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist.