Previously announced in July, significant fee increases for visa and nationality applications and related services will take effect on 4 October. Fines levied for employing someone without the right to work in the UK are also due to increase, though the precise date has not been fixed.
Most work and visit fees are rising by 15%, taking the cost of a Skilled Worker visa application for three years or less lodged outside the UK to £719. There is a 35% increase for students applying from overseas. Fees for some priority services will increase by a higher percentage, with the charge for the overseas priority processing service for non-settlement applications increasing from £250 to £500. Full details can be found here. Increases to the Immigration Health Surcharge – which is expected to rise by 66% to £1,035 a year – will be announced later in the autumn.
No firm date has yet been set for the increase in the fines that can be levied on employers who fail to conduct the necessary right to work checks. The Government plans to triple these fines (with the maximum rising from £20,000 to £60,000) as part of its initiative to tackle illegal working. More details of the plans are set out in this press release.
The increase in fees will not be welcomed by many employers having to rely on overseas recruitment to fill roles in a climate of high job vacancies. But the increase in civil penalties for illegal working is likely to be of greater concern.
Penalties are applied strictly and many cases of illegal working arise from an administrative oversight on the part of the employer, or errors when conducting right to work checks. Employers will want to ensure that they have robust systems for conducting right to work checks and that staff are trained on how to conduct checks, taking into account a number of recent changes in this area (including the option of conducting checks for British and Irish passport holders using Identity Service Providers). Conducting employee file audits to ensure that files contain appropriate evidence of right to work checks would also be sensible.
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