From Spring next year it will be easier for employers to verify the status of a potential employee's ability to work in the UK.

Immigration Minister Damian Green announced today that firms will be able to go online to verify that the details contained on a foreign employee's biometric residence permit (BRP) are correct.


This is good news for employers, particular those in sectors which attract a lot of foreign workers such as building and construction, for example. Much of the reforms in the employment sphere have focused on relieving some of the pressure faced by employers and therefore encourage them to offer more jobs. Additionally, the issue of illegal immigrants working in some of the few jobs available has been a bone of contention for some. This system will help both these matters. It will further ensure that those wishing to come to the UK to work illegally are aware that it will not be as easy as it once was.

The biometric permits are part of a wider effort to control illegal immigration into the UK and hold finger print and photographic evidence on a chip. It was also announced that from 29 February 2012 BRPs will be issued to more categories of foreign nationals, including refugees and those granted permission to settle in the UK. At present an employer has a lot of paper work to get through if it wishes to be sure that the worker is able to legally work in the UK. The speed of this new process will free up an employers time for more productive tasks and will encourage employment of those who are able to work in the UK, therefore improving employment figures overall. The Prime Minister, David Cameron has commented on his sadness over the increase in unemployment figures for the third quarter which were released on the 14 December. Measures such as this will hopefully help improve similar statistics next year.

Those who are required to hold a BRP will increase to those who are already in the UK and have made an application to remain here for more than 6 months. This ensures that more and more people are caught by the system and eases the pressure on employers further. The points based immigration system that was introduced in 2008 placed an obligation on employers of Tier 2 workers to play their part and prevent abuses of the UK immigration system. This was in an effort to ensure that British workers were first in line for jobs but did increase the pressure on employers who registered to be able to employer foreign workers.

It is both a possible civil and criminal offence to employ an illegal immigrant, with penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment. Civil penalties imposed by the UK Border Agency can be up to £10,000 per illegal worker. In some cases it might be possible to reduce the cilvil penalty if the employer has reported his suspicions that a worker is illegal and then co-operates with any subsequent investigation.

Furthermore, an employer who might employ foreign workers must also consider whether or not its policies are fair in terms of discrimination. If a foreign worker has the requisite skill but the work involved in getting them on to the job in terms of immigration papers is perceived to be too difficult so as to choose a less qualified British worker instead, discrimination could be at issue.

The pitfalls for failure to complete relevant immigration checks and prevent illegal working, balanced alongside the need to act as a fair employer make it a sensible option for all employers to have a robust immigration policy in place and this new system will make doing so a lot easier.

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