3 Things Businesses Need To Know About Immigration In 2017


The Law Of… ensuring the future of your business

2017 has been a busy year so far in both employment and immigration law in the UK. Luke Piper, Solicitor in Immigration Law, and Deana Bates, Solicitor in Employment Law, share 3 important things that employers need to know to safeguard their businesses.

1. Getting To Grips With The Tier 2 Immigration Skills Charge

Thursday 6th April 2017 brought about various changes in both immigration and employment law.

One of the most notable changes is the new Tier 2 immigration skills charge for businesses in the UK. Employers who now want to hire staff from outside of the EU will have to pay an annual sum of £1,000 for each non-EU worker to the Government.

Small and charitable sponsors with turnovers of up to £10.2million and up to 50 employees can breathe a small sigh of relief as although they are subject to the charge, they will pay a reduced fee of £364 for each worker.

The skills charge applies to workers who are:

  • Applying for a visa outside of the UK
  • Living in the UK and switching to Tier 2 from another visa
  • Living in the UK and trying to extend their existing Tier 2 visa

But, it doesn't need to be paid if you're sponsoring a:

  • Worker who's applying for a visa from outside the UK for less than 6 months
  • Worker who had a Tier 2 visa prior to 6th April 2017 and is applying to extend their visa whilst they're in the UK so that they can stay with your business or another sponsor
  • Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) Graduate Trainee
  • Tier 4 student visa holder in the UK who's switching to a Tier 2 (General) visa
  • Worker to do a specified PhD-level occupation listed in Table 1 of Appendix J of the Immigration Rules

Employers also don't have to pay the charge for their worker's family members (also known as dependents) who aren't migrant workers under the Tier 2 (General) or (Intra-Company Transfer) category.

This means good news for businesses looking to recruit staff into and from universities – the skills charge doesn’t apply to students and most PhD posts.

2. Brexit – Protecting Your Workforce 

With the possibility of the UK leaving the single market and freedom of movement coming to an end, Brexit has certainly created a lot of uncertainty for both EU citizens living and working in the UK and employers.

But, the good news is that the rights of EU citizens won't change until the UK has officially left the EU. Pressure is also increasing on the Government to guarantee the rights of EU citizens and prioritise this issue during Brexit talks.

In the meantime, there are some constructive steps that businesses can take to protect the future of their workforces, such as identifying which members of staff could be affected by Brexit.

It's a good idea to keep open lines of communication with these employees and encourage them to have honest discussions with you about their situation. For example, you could have an informal chat with them about whether they have permanent residence in the UK or are applying for it and offer support.

If you're concerned about what Brexit could mean for your business, our immigration team offers an exclusive Brexit advisory service for employers as well as a weekly Brexit newsletter.

We can also provide bespoke training courses focusing on the needs of your workforce, including delivering training to your employees on how to efficiently and effectively submit applications to the Home Office for permanent residence.

3. Right To Work Checks

There are certain steps that all employers need to take to ensure that any new member of staff is legally authorised to work in the UK. This includes having right to work checks high on their list of priorities.

On a practical level, it's useful for employers to carry out the checks after they've found an individual who would be suitable for a specific role. In the long term, this would also help your business disprove any argument that a recruitment decision was based on the nationality of an individual and prevent a potential race discrimination claim from arising.

If you've discovered that the individual you'd like to hire doesn't have permission to work in the UK, it's important for you to get legal advice from an immigration expert.   

At this stage, you can also make an offer of employment but in the offer letter sent to the individual you should state that the offer is conditional on the basis that they gain the right to work in the UK. You can also explain that you reserve the right to withdraw the offer if the individual is unable to get the relevant permission they need to live and work in the UK by the intended start date. 

Any employer that fails to meet the legal requirements in relation to hiring migrant workers – such as not carrying out the checks or doing them incorrectly – can face serious consequences:

  • A civil fine of up to £20,000.00 for each illegal employee
  • Criminal liability, ranging from up to 5 years in prison and/or an unlimited monetary fine
  • Business closure for up to 48 hours

How Can Simpson Millar's Employment And Immigration Lawyers Help My Business?

Every business – whether it's large or small – must ensure that it meets both immigration and employment law requirements when hiring workers from overseas.

Employers must strike a balance between meeting their legal obligations from an immigration perspective and avoiding discriminating against applicants or employees on the basis of their race or nationality.

Whether you have an immigration query about hiring a non-EU worker or need some advice about which employment law conditions you need to meet, our immigration and employment law experts are ready to help.

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