Home » Knowledge Hub » » The Immigration Challenge

The Immigration Challenge

23 October 2023

Yash Colour Headshot

Story by
Yash Dubal Director, A Y & J Solicitors

Picture of a United States of America Passport with a Blurry Two Honduran Lempiras Bill under it

High on the political agenda and HR’s own considerations, immigration is at once a complex area and one which is important for securing the skills an organisation requires. Here, Yash Dubal, Director, A Y & J Solicitors explores the practicalities.

Immigration has long been a topic that gets people going. Everyone has an opinion, not least politicians. Immigration was one of the most contentious issues at the recent Conservative Party conference where senior politicians announced a series of proposals to reduce the numbers of people coming to the UK to live, study and work.

Whether any of these measures actually become law remains to be seen. But with a general election due before the end of 2024, Conservative politicians are predictably playing to their traditional audience with hardline rhetoric. Last year net migration stood at 606,000, a record and far higher than the 250,000-target set by Rishi Sunak. The figure, however, should be taken with a pinch of salt, as it was significantly boosted by one-off schemes for Ukrainian refugees and British National Overseas (BNO) holders from Hong Kong.

While the government wrestles to reduce the number of people coming to the UK under our liberal post-Brexit points-based system, employers are increasingly looking to recruit from overseas as a solution to hard-to-fill vacancies. Those who venture into this corner of the HR world are faced with a complicated and sometimes frustrating system.

The question of visas

Firstly, not all jobs qualify for visas. The main visa route that employers will use is the Skilled Worker Route and there are hundreds of jobs which are eligible under this route from security officers to youth workers, dentists, paramedics, and IT technicians. There is no resident labour test for these roles, meaning employers do not have to offer them to native workers first. In addition many other lower skilled jobs are eligible for work visas under the shortage occupation classification scheme. These are professions where the vacancy rate is particularly acute. Roles on the shortage occupation list include senior care workers, web designers, engineering professionals and health service managers.

In order to employ anyone on a skilled worker visa, employers must follow a process controlled by the Home Office. Firstly an organisation must apply for and be granted a sponsor licence. In order to hold a sponsor licence an organisation or business must fulfil certain requirements. It must be genuine and legally operating in the UK as a PLC, Ltd, LLP or as directors, owners and managers. The applicant cannot have unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or certain other crimes, such as fraud or money laundering. An organisation cannot have had a sponsor licence revoked in the last 12 months. It also needs to have appropriate systems in place to monitor sponsored workers and people to manage sponsorship.

An application for a sponsor licence must be accompanied by several supporting documents, details of which are listed on the UK Government website. UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), a department within the Home Office, reviews applications and sometimes conducts visits to businesses to make sure they are trustworthy and capable of carrying out their duties.

A sponsor licence allows an organisation to issue a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) to a worker which in turn allows the worker to apply for a skilled worker visa. The onus is on the employer to check that the overseas worker has the necessary skills, qualifications or professional accreditations to do their job.

The whole process takes time and can place a significant administrative burden on a business, particularly if the business is small or if an application fails initially because some documents have been omitted or a wrong answer given. This is especially frustrating because organisations are often anxious to fill vacancies quickly. For this reason many organisations prefer to use the services of qualified legal professionals to deal with visa matters.

Ongoing duty to comply

Once a CoS has been issued and the worker gains a visa and starts work, the employer then has an ongoing duty to comply with certain requirements in relation to the worker, keeping records and advising the UKVI of any change of circumstances. Any contravention of the rules can have serious consequences, particularly at the moment when compliance visits are increasing as the government carries out a crackdown on illegal workers.

Since the start of the year there has been a 50 percent increase in Home Office raids and compliance visits on businesses suspected of employing undocumented workers and a tripling of fines for those found to be doing so.

The onus is firmly on employers, even if they are hoodwinked by fake documents and dishonest declarations. There is little leniency for employers who inadvertently employ illegal migrants or forget to do the necessary checks. Fines are set at up to £20,000 per illegal worker (unknowingly employed). The fine is set to increase to up to £60,000 per worker, next year (2024). Offenders are named and shamed on a public record.
To stay on the right side of the law, it is up to the employer to validate, record and check all the documentation required by the Home Office to ensure that the person being employed has a right to work in the UK. A sponsor must report if someone is in breach of their visa conditions.

Incorrect document checks

One of the most common mistakes employers make is not doing document checks properly. It’s paramount to review all necessary identification and right-to-work evidence, without making assumptions based on a candidate’s appearance or accent. Disparities in photos or names across documents are often overlooked but can be significant red flags. Documents must also be stored correctly for GDPR compliance. Where a check is being made on an original document detailed attention should be paid to security features such as watermarks and holograms to ensure documents are genuine. Physical document checks should be authenticated with copies taken and the copy should be signed and dated.

It is also important for organisations to record and diarise the validity periods on visas or work permits. Most visas are time-limited and if an overseas worker continues to work when their visa has run out, the organisation employing them is breaking the law. Periodic re-checks and follow-ups are recommended.

Staying up to date

It is also always advisable to keep up to date with current rules and requirements. The UK’s eligibility criteria for rules relating to permission to work on visas can shift. Regular updates on current legislation are essential.

Unfortunately, even those businesses who are not directly involved and are completely innocent can get drawn into bad headlines if their contractors do not follow the rules. In August this year, for example, Sainsbury’s was mentioned in several media, including the BBC, when it was reported that a man who recruited illegal migrants as cleaners in supermarkets had been jailed for six years. He created false identities and falsified bank statements for the workers he used. While the supermarket had nothing to do with his crimes, it was unfortunately dragged into the case. This, sadly, is unavoidable but with the correct procedures in place, bone fide businesses should have nothing to fear and can defend their reputation, even when under Home Office scrutiny.

Abiding by Right to Work rules may seem onerous, but by implementing the correct procedures and paperwork, organisations can recruit both UK and overseas talent with confidence.

Topics

Share

Advertisment

Latest Events

The Good That HR Does

At a time when HR is dealing with considerable stresses and strains, both in business and in the wider world, this webinar concentrates on the good HR delivers.
The good that HR does

Attract Top Talent: Master Social Media Recruitment for the Modern Workforce

The talent landscape is changing - Millennials and Gen Z now make up a growing majority. By 2025, 75% of the workforce globally will be Millennials. Are you planning your Employer Branding priorities with them in mind?
Master Social Media Recruitment for the Modern Workforce

Spring Networking Event

In the surroundings of the National Treasures: Constable in Bristol “Truth to Nature” exhibition, we’re hosting a free drinks and networking opportunity for you to meet and connect with business leaders and colleagues.
spring networking event hrw

May 2024 – Employee Benefits: How to Stop Wasting Money

Are you throwing money at employee benefits or a health and wellbeing programme that aren't appreciated?
employee benefits how to stop wasting money

June 2024 – All Promises? Is AI the Answer to your HR and L&D challenges?

The impact of AI on the workplace and working life in general has been the subject of much speculation, but what of the impact on HR itself? With the ability to offer key data for HR streamline work processes, AI could be the answer hard-pressed HR professionals are looking for.
all promises is ai the answer

May 2024 – Equality, Diversity, Inclusion: Put your money where your mouth is

Is EDI still a vital part of every business' agenda and what good does it deliver for HR?
equality, diversity, inclusion webinar

AI in the Workplace, The Potential, The Pitfalls and The Risks

In recent years, advancements in AI technologies have surged, permeating nearly every industry and facet of our lives. From automating routine tasks to augmenting human decision-making, AI holds the promise of revolutionising productivity, efficiency, and creativity in the workplace.
AI in the Workplace

Apr 2024 – Reward and Recognition – is that the best you can do?

What are the standard ways HR should be seeking to reward and recognise its employees - and what are the more innovative ways?

Mar 2024 – Leveraging Digital Learning Tools: Empowering HR Teams for Success

In today's fast-paced business landscape, the role of HR teams is evolving rapidly. To stay competitive and foster organisational growth, companies must leverage effective learning programs strategically.

Mar 2024 – The Efficiency Programme: How HR can maximise technology benefits

There are huge promises and potential for the use of AI and technology in HR and in this session we discuss the best way ahead for HR for technology and AI use.

Effective Resourcing Models & How We Guarantee the Integrity of Inclusive Recruitment Regardless of Approach

A opportunity to debate how can we adopt a cohesive inclusive approach that enhances the candidate experience without creating barriers between us and the talent essential to your organisational success.
15 may 2024 sanderson effective resourcing models

Feb 2024 – It’s All HR’s Fault

Despite being a trusted voice in the C-suite, HR is still viewed with distrust and outright disdain by many employees – the very people HR is there to support.
Its all HRs Fault On demand Webinar

Jan 2024 – Health and Wellbeing: Making it Personal

If you’re investing in a health and wellbeing strategy, you want to make sure it meets the needs of your workforce.

Dec 2023 – Year in Review 2023

In this webinar we brought back some of our previous 2023 webinar speakers who gave their view on the past 12 months.

Nov 2023 – Reward and Recognition for the International Workforce

In this webinar we explored the dispersed workplace and asked what it means to support employees all over the world.
Reward and Recognition for the International Workforce

Streamlining Year-End HR Operations

Providing seasonal support, ideas and inspiration, this webinar covered the challenges and opportunities presented to HR professionals at this time of year.
Streamlining year-end HR operations

The HR World Autumn/Winter Networking Drinks 2023

At this exclusive evening senior HR leaders were able to meet their contemporaries, talk to other HR thought leaders and experts and access The HR World’s unique network of game-changers and decision-makers.

Compensation Planning – The key to a motivated and satisfied workforce

Compensation and reward strategies have changed radically over the past few years with the impact of the pandemic and the trends that followed.
Compensation Planning - The key to a motivated and satisfied workforce

Oct 2023 – Talent Acquisition: Why your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is more important than ever

This webinar addressing talent acquisition majored on the Employee Value Proposition (EVP).
Talent Acquisition – Why your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is more important than ever

Resourcing Models, Insource, Outsource or Hybrid what are the best solutions?

Discussions on the evening were led by two invited experts Jim Richardson, with spells at Santander and Royal Bank of Scotland as Global Head of Talent, Jim now advises corporate businesses on their TA models, and, Ross Crook, Managing Director at Sanderson Solutions.
Resourcing models round table

Sep 2023 – Retention: Holding on to The Talent You Need

The post-pandemic workforce now presents more of a challenge in terms of feeling satisfied and content in the workplace. This webinar on retention also provided a masterclass on employee engagement.
Retention holding on to the talent you need

Aug 2023 – Professional Development: Making the Step Up

What does it take to be an HR Director, or to take a position at Board level? This webinar looked at professional development for HR leaders.
What does it take to be an HR Director?

Jul 2023 – Employee Benefits: Then, now and next

The importance and value of giving employees choice on rewards and recognition.
Employee benefits, then now and next.

Jun 2023 – HR Data: The Key To Delivering Real Value

This webinar on HR Data brought home the importance of understanding the value of people data not just to HR but to the business as a whole.
HR on demand event - HR data: the key to delivering real value

RPO Market – Insource, Outsource or Hybrid: What are the best solutions?

The HR World and Sanderson Managed Services Ltd held an exclusive Round Table dinner to explore and debate the current RPO arena.

AI as part of the hiring, on-boarding and retention processes

The HR World and Sanderson Managed Services Ltd held an exclusive Round Table dinner to further the discussion of AI among Senior HR Leaders.

May 2023 – AI in HR: The Perfect Balance

AI is hitting the headlines right now as experts forecast a future that’s powered by tech. But what will this mean for HR?
On demand hr webinar - Ai in HR

Apr 2023 – HR Tech: Ensuring your technology delivers for all your people

Technology continues to throw challenges at the HR function as the speed of change increases and new technology (anyone noticed something called AI?) enters the arena.
HR tech on demand webinar with Sympa

Mar 2023 – Equality, diversity, and inclusion: Reshaping thinking for action

In this webinar we explored how ED&I can have a real impact for businesses. At the centre of the discussion was the idea of changing thinking in order to make things happen.
Equality, diversity, and inclusion: Reshaping thinking for action

Feb 2023 – Leading With Agility: How to give your business the behaviours and mindsets it needs for volatile times

This webinar took as its focus agility and how businesses can develop and maintain these skills among its workforce.
This webinar took as its focus agility and how businesses can develop and maintain these skills among its workforce.

Jan 2023 – How can you create a culture of health and wellbeing in the workplace?

This webinar tackled the important and timely issue of creating a health and wellbeing culture in the workplace.
How can you create a culture of health and wellbeing in the workplace?

Bridging the gap: what can employers learn about emerging talent to drive better hiring strategies?

Join us at this cross-learning, in-person event as part of The HR World Culture Clash series, bringing HRDs, founders and emerging talent together to build a better workforce for the future.
Bridging the gap: what can employers learn about emerging talent to drive better hiring strategies?
HRW Membership@2x@2x

Are you a senior HR professional?

Join our membership to shape the future of work, get exclusive access to events, white papers and research content, profile your work, gain access to support from HR experts and celebrate your successes.

Become a Partner

Please get in touch to talk about how we can help your business make an impact in the world of work through our content marketing, partnership plans and advertising.