UK Border Agency – What Has Changed?

The UK Border Agency was set up in 2008 to sort out immigration as the system was deemed not to be fit for purpose.

However, the government recently announced it was to be scrapped due to a number of embarrassing faux pas.  In 2011 it was discovered that some checks on European travellers had been relaxed.  I witnessed this myself at the port of Dover on many occasions where up to 20 UK Border Agency officials stood around chatting watching the many cars and vans pouring off the ferries and out of the port without making any attempt to stop anyone.

Whilst Theresa May the Home Secretary said that whilst the relaxing of some checks had been done with her knowledge,  Brodie Clark, who was in charge, had gone further in scaling back checks without her approval.  He resigned.

Ms May said that due to the volume of numbers coming to the UK the system is struggling and on 1 April it was brought back under Home Office authority. It was then split into two parts.  One part is an immigration and visa service with a “culture of customer satisfaction” for business and visitors with money to spend and the other is an immigration  law enforcement organisation with a “get tough” agenda.

However there are no major plans to overhaul the system other than that which has recently taken place which include some tidying up of immigration rules and an overhaul of the Codes of Practice.

The government is intent on bringing down net migration and placing restrictions on member EU countries where it can.  For example Romania and Bulgaria can only, later this year, migrate to the UK after an initial restriction on doing so was agreed in Brussels when these countries joined the EU.

Employers need to ensure that their employees have the right to work in the UK checking their ID documents – passports, visas, etc and keeping photocopies on file that are annually assessed, particularly those employees with time limited immigration permission.  A list of prescribed documents is available on the Home Office website.  Key personnel such as authorising officer, key contact, level 1 & 2 users) should be conversant with their duties and responsibilities.  They should know what changes in migrant or sponsor circumstances to report, and when and how to do it.  The Code of Practice for avoiding discrimination when dealing checking documents should be referred to and legal advice taken in cases of difficulty.

Employers should stay on top of Home Office guidance which is changing all the time.  For example, employers need to refer to the most recent tier 2 and 5 guidance and codes of practice when issuing Certificates of Sponsorship as some thresholds and criteria, e.g. minimum salary levels in some jobs, have changed recently.  Also employers should ensure that migrant employees are using the right forms and most efficient processes when applying for new and extended permission.