Conclusions and recommendations |
1. The Points Based System (the System) is
an improvement on the visa system which preceded it but has yet
to fully meet its objectives.
The System is more transparent to those applying and more adaptable
to changing migration needs. It provides an objective basis for
decisions, which are reached more quickly than under the previous
system. It therefore provides a useful base on which to build.
However, the Agency needs to make significant improvements, particularly
to encourage greater compliance and improve management information,
so that the System works more effectively to meet its objectives.
The following recommendations are designed to help meet this end.
2. The Agency has not done enough to ensure
that migrant workers leave the UK when they no longer have a right
to remain. It estimates that 181,000 people
may have stayed on in the UK after their permission to remain
has expired, but it does not have the right information to know
if this is an accurate estimate. The Agency should not use the
lack of exit controls as an excuse to ignore thousands of people
who overstay in this country illegally. It should develop a strategy
to identify and deal with those overstaying, including students,
workers and others who are in the UK illegally, and report publicly
at least once a year on progress in reducing their numbers. We
will return to this topic in due course to evaluate progress.
3. The Agency does not have enough control
over whether sponsoring employers comply with their duties and
does not appear to know where the main risks lie. The Agency does
not check regularly through visits to ensure proper compliance
with the rules by employers. Until October
2010, the Agency was unable to say how many employers had been
visited or the outcomes of these visits. This has undermined its
ability to develop a sufficiently robust risk-based approach to
monitoring employers. The Agency should improve its ability to
assess and address the risk of employers failing to comply with
immigration rules by developing better systems and placing greater
priority on compliance. It should also review its system of incentives
and penalties to encourage better compliance, and consider what
incentives it could offer to employers to guarantee their employees'
adherence to immigration rules, in particular leaving the country
when the visa has expired.
4. Multi-national organisations are able to
send workers from outside the European Economic Area to UK branches
through the Intra-Company Transfer route, but we are concerned
that the Agency does not have enough control over this route.
Up to September 2010, employers have brought in 42,000 IT workers
using this route at a time when UK residents with IT skills cannot
find work. Unlike other work routes, there is no limit on the
number of workers able to use the route. The Department believes
that the interests of resident workers are protected through a
minimum salary requirement. Since April 2011, this route is available
only to workers earning a minimum of £24,000 a year to remain
in the UK for 12 months and to workers earning over £40,000
a year to remain in the UK for up to five years. However, employers
are able to pay up to 40% of the salary as allowances, which are
more difficult to verify. The Agency must ensure that it can verify
all salaries accurately and should consider excluding allowances
from salaries. Furthermore, we expect the Home Office to monitor
this scheme and whether controls are operating adequately, to
provide the assurance that it does protect the interests of resident
5. There are wide variations in productivity
between the Agency's UK-based and overseas operations, and between
different regions, which the Agency cannot fully explain. The
Agency's visiting officers are not as productive as they should
be. The numbers of applications decided
per day varies widely between caseworkers working in the UK and
overseas offices, and between different offices overseas. In addition,
the Agency's visiting officers carry out an average of only 4.5
employer visits a month, compared to the 16 visits the Agency
calculates should be possible. The Agency should investigate known
areas of difference in productivity and focus greater effort on
ensuring that staff in all locations work as productively as possible.
6. The number of errors made by applicants
creates unnecessary burdens on both applicants and the Agency.
Currently, half of migrant applicants seek help through calls
to the Agency's helplines, and applications are often rejected
for easily correctable errors. Sponsoring employers frequently
seek advice from the Agency's enquiry lines or from specialist
immigration lawyers. We welcome the Agency's commitment to address
these problems by improving its guidance and forms. 'Evidential
flexibility', which was introduced to help with this issue, is
not applied consistently and is not in place for sponsor licence
applications. We also heard that some employers would like to
have named immigration caseworkers who could be directly contacted
about applications for sponsored workers. The Agency should:
i. ensure that its staff take a consistent and
proactive approach to correcting minor errors and omissions;
ii. extend the principle of evidential flexibility
to applications from employers; and
iii. explore options for improving the service
provided to sponsors who are willing to pay for it, for example
by providing a single caseworker contact.
7. The Agency does not have the necessary
management information on migrant applications to address compliance
problems. We welcome
the Agency's assurance that its new integrated casework system
will provide the information needed to deal with these issues.
We note, however, that it will not address weaknesses in the management
information available on sponsoring employers or improve the service
offered to them. We are also concerned that the changes will not
be fully operational until 2013. Over the next two years, while
it rolls out the new integrated immigration casework system, the
Agency should establish performance measures and determine what
management information it needs to manage compliance better across
both migrant and sponsor management and ensure that the new systems
are able to support these.