The Government has rushed in changes designed to help employers fill skillsgaps with overseas talent. But there are still major policy issues to beresolved, warns Julia Onslow-ColeOn 28 September, the Department for Education & Employment posted anotice on its web site heralding the most dramatic changes to the Work PermitScheme in 20 years. The notice preceded any formal government announcement andcaught the media and most employers completely unawares. The changes followed a major shift in the past few months in the Government’sattitude to immigration. This was highlighted in September when the Home Officeminister, Barbara Roche, called for a fresh debate on immigration policy in awell-publicised speech made at an Institute of Public Policy Researchconference. Roche emphasised the need to look afresh at immigration in thecontext of a global economy. She referred to the fact that there was now aninternational scramble to attract experts and wealth creators and to fillskills gaps. She stressed that UK immigration policies had to be in tune withthe reality of the 21st century and the globalised economy. Immigration experts considered the minister’s speech an important step in along-term process of persuading the public of the need for more immigration.Privately, civil servants working in the Home Office were talking about twoyears for major Home Office changes. At the same time the DfEE, whichadministers the Work Permit Scheme, had been undertaking a review of the workpermit process. This review came out of the White Paper on Competitiveness andwas encouraged by the Department of Trade and Industry. Within weeks of Barbara Roche’s call for a fresh look at immigration, theDfEE had announced sweeping changes to the Work Permit Scheme. Whether it was acase of joined-up government in action or a happy coincidence, the DfEE had inone step made the Home Office minister’s vision a reality. One of the DfEE’s most important moves was to lower the skills criteria atthe heart of the Work Permit Scheme. From now on the basic qualification anoverseas national must have to obtain a work permit is a degree, a relevant HNDoccupational qualification, a general HND qualification plus one year’srelevant experience, or three years’ “high-level relevant specialist skills”for a job at NVQ Level 3 (which is in essence A-level standard). A graduatewith no work experience can now meet the skills criteria of the new Work PermitScheme. Until October, to meet skills requirements overseas nationals had tohave at least a degree and two years’ relevant senior level experience,normally gained outside the UK; or, if they had no degree, five years’ relevantsenior level experience. The changes are obviously welcome. In particular they will give employerssignificant opportunities to hire talented overseas nationals to fill jobs inall industry sectors. Furthermore, the changes are welcomed by overseasstudents who have been encouraged to study in the UK after the relaxation lastyear of some immigration measures. Foreign students can now study for a degree and then go on to obtain a fullwork permit allowing them to stay in the UK. However, as well as the overseas national fulfilling the skillsrequirements, an employer applying for a work permit must demonstrate thatno-one else is available in the labour market to fill the position. Therelevant labour market includes everyone in the UK who has the right to live inthe UK permanently, plus nationals of the wider European Economic Area.However, there are cases where the DfEE is likely to waive the requirement totest the resident labour force. These include cases where employers haveconducted a thorough graduate recruitment process, or where the position is ona “skills shortage list” maintained by the DfEE. Many of the jobs inthe information technology sector fall into the latter category. Intracompany transfers, where employees have worked overseas for the sameemployer for more than six months, will also be given particular exemptionsfrom testing the resident labour force. However, in most other cases it isdifficult to see how employers could demonstrate that there are no othersuitable candidates for the position, given the relatively low level of skillsnecessary in the new Work Permit Scheme. If the application for a work permit is in a category which means it must beadvertised, the employer will have to advertise the vacancy in a nationalmedium which has a European circulation or, in some cases, on the Internet. Howwill employers be able to advertise a job at new graduate level and show as aresult of the advertisement that there is no-one else available who can do thejob in the resident labour market? They may well have some difficulty. The recent changes include a provision for employees to move with relativefreedom to similar jobs with a different employer. At present it is not clearwhether this exemption applies to employees who originally came to the UK asthe result of an intracompany transfer. These and other issues are beingclarified with the DfEE. Another live issue which must be resolved quickly concerns people in theTraining & Work Experience Scheme, many of whom now qualify for a full workpermit. Apart from for those who want to work in a genuine supernumerarycapacity, the Training & Work Experience Scheme is now effectivelyredundant. Can trainees in the middle of their scheme switch to full workpermits? The DfEE is also considering this issue. The DfEE has introduced a pilot self-certification scheme whereby employersor their representatives will be given work permits which they themselves canissue in straightforward cases of intracompany transfers, where employees havebeen working for the company overseas for six months or more. This will run forsix months as a pilot scheme in 15 companies, but if it is successful it islikely to be implemented more widely. However, it is unlikely the scheme willoutlive the pilot stage, because electronic processing of work permit applications,which will be implemented later this year, will streamline the applicationprocess and reduce the advantages of self-certification. Furthermore,self-certification is costly for the DfEE to maintain, as site visits and closemonitoring are essential to ensure permits are issued only in accordance withthe strict requirements of the scheme. From this month work permits can be issued for up to five years. This is awelcome change. After four years on a full work permit an overseas national canapply for indefinite leave to remain. The five-year permit will give employeesor their representatives time to apply for permanent residence at the four-yearpoint without worrying that they will run out of time to stay in the UK. Thisis an area which can cause great strife for business travellers. The changes have been introduced at breakneck speed: consultations did notbegin until shortly before last Christmas. It will be interesting to see theireffect. It is hoped they will boost the economy and give a welcome fillip tobusinesses. However, there are concerns about the speed with which the changes have beenmade. There are major policy questions which the DfEE must resolve urgently,and the department is aware it must ensure there are adequate checks andbalances to preserve the integrity of the system. If this is not done and there is obvious abuse, public opinion will notpermit the continued relaxation of our immigration policies that is soessential for our success in the global economy. Julia Onslow-Cole is partner of CMS Cameron McKenna and head of globalimmigration team Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. Welcome to BritainOn 1 Nov 2000 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos.
PM casts doubt over imminent resumption for professional sport May 11, 2020 Demonstrating its commitment to North American racing, Sky Sports Racing has secured two multi-year partnerships with New York Racing Association (NYRA) and Woodbine Entertainment Group. The two new agreements will see the broadcaster acquire the exclusive UK and Ireland broadcast rights for all races from Woodbine, Saratoga, Aqueduct and Belmont Park Racecourses Matthew Imi, Chief Executive of At The Races, commented: “We’re thrilled to be partnering with two racing organisations as forward thinking and respected as NYRA and Woodbine. Their venues host high quality racing and their East coast locations are increasingly attracting British and Irish trained horses. “This complements our offering of the world’s best international racing, and we’re excited about promoting and showcasing NYRA and Woodbine racing in the UK and Ireland.”Under the terms of the partnerships, Sky Sports Racing will deliver HD coverage from each track into its nightly, studio-hosted US racing broadcasts. Attheraces.com will also work alongside each of the racecourses to drive extensive digital and social media coverage for race fans.Tony Allevato, Chief Revenue Officer of NYRA, added: “Partnering with Sky Sports will expand the reach of NYRA’s acclaimed television simulcast program and provide viewers in the UK with high quality daily coverage of Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course. To be featured prominently on Sky Sports Racing and its digital At The Races channels will benefit New York’s horsemen and grow the sport.”Jim Lawson, Chief Executive of Woodbine Entertainment, concluded: “We are excited to partner with Sky Sports to further promote our world-class Thoroughbred horse racing at Woodbine Racetrack. “With the opening of our second turf course earlier this summer and our renowned E.P. Taylor course, we have carded more turf races than ever before which we believe will resonate well with the Sky Sports audience in the UK and Ireland. “This partnership will also provide further exposure to our major racing events highlighted by the Queen’s Plate, the Ricoh Woodbine Mile and the Pattison Canadian International.” Share UK racing remains hopeful for crowd pilot events August 14, 2020 Share Related Articles Ascot adds three-year extension to Sky Sports Racing deal August 14, 2020 Submit StumbleUpon