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Work Permits

Volume 973: debated on Wednesday 14 November 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment what changes he is proposing to make in the arrangements for the issue of work permits.

This Department is proposing to make changes in the arrangements for the issue of work permits in order to strengthen the protection which the work permit scheme affords for the employment opportunities of resident workers and of those from other member States of the EEC who may wish to work here. At a time of high unemployment it should be quite exceptional for an employer to seek to recruit a worker from overseas. We appreciate, of course, that the existence of nationwide skills shortages sometimes makes the engagement of an overseas worker essential and that refusal of a work permit in some such cases could lead to the loss of job opportunities for resident workers. The fact that a suitable worker is not available here or in the EEC is not of itself, however, a sufficient reason for an employer to seek a worker for overseas. Before doing so he should consider carefully whether the vacancy can be filled by promotion or transfer of any of his existing workers or by the provision of suitable training.In general, work permits will, in future, be available only for overseas workers holding recognised professional qualifications or having a high degree of skill or experience. An application for a permit will be considered only if the vacancy necessarily requires such a worker and is normally in an occupation serviced by the professional and executive recruitment service. The employer will be expected to notify the vacancy to the nearest employment office and to allow at least four weeks for a suitable worker to be found. For most occupations the minimum age for the issue of a permit will be increased from 18 to 23. This is the lower age at which an overseas worker is likely to have acquired the necessary skills and experience. Other requirements of the existing scheme are unchanged.A separate announcement will be made later about the special arrangements under which a limited number of resident domestics and other semi-skilled or unskilled workers have been allowed to come from certain countries to work here.Young people from overseas will continue to be allowed to come here for limited periods of on-the-job training or work experience but will not be allowed to remain here in normal employment.We hope that these new arrangements will result in a steady decrease in the number of long-term work permits issued. The Department will keep this under close review and we shall not hesitate to make further changes should these prove to be necessary.The following are the details of the new arrangements which will apply from 1 January 1980:

  • 1. Except as provided in the immigration rules, any person, other than EEC nationals, subject to immigration control coming to work in the United Kingdom is required to have a work permit. Permits are issued for employment in Great Britain by the Department of Employment and for employment in Northern Ireland by the Department of Manpower Services.
  • 2. The arrangements described in the subsequent paragraphs are those that apply in Great Britain. The same conditions apply in Northern Ireland but references to the "Department of Employment" and the "Manpower Services Commission" should be read as references to the "Department of Manpower Services" and to "professional and executive recruitment (PER)" as to "professional and executive personnel (PEP)".
  • 3. The prospective employer must apply to the Department of Employment for a work permit for a named overseas worker and for a specific job. The permit will be issued for an initial period not exceeding 12 months. Only workers between 23 and 54 years of age are eligible for permits. A permit will not be issued if in the opinion of the overseas labour section of the Department of Employment after consultation with the Manpower Services Commission suitable resident labour is available to fill the post offered nor if the wages or other conditions of employment offered are less favourable than those obtaining in the area for similar work.
  • 4. With the exceptions referred to later, permits will be available only for workers in the following categories who can satisfy the Department that they possess the necessary qualifications and experience which should normally have been acquired outside the United Kingdom:
  • (a) those holding recognised professional qualifications;
  • (b) administrative and executive staff;
  • (c) highly qualified technicians having specialised experience; and
  • (d) other key workers with a high or scarce qualification in an industry or occupation requiring specific expert knowledge or skills.
  • The worker will also be expected to have an adequate command of the English language.

    5. In general, an application for a work permit will be considered only if the vacancy is in an occupation serviced by the professional and executive recruitment service (PER) and which necessarily requires a worker having the qualifications referred to in paragraph 4 above. when applying for the permit the prospective employer must satisfy the Department of Employment that a genuine vacancy exists, that no suitable resident labour is available and that he has made adequate efforts to find a worker from that source and from the EEC. The employer is expected to notify the vacancy to the nearest PER office, jobcentre or employment office and to allow four weeks for a suitable worker to be found. He is also expected to advertise the vacancy in the press or appropriate trade and professional journals and to undertake to pay the travelling expenses of any worker resident in this country who comes from a distance for a pre-arranged interview or to take up employment.

    6. Work permits are available for highly skilled and experienced workers for senior posts in hotel and catering establishments who have successfully completed appropriate full-time training courses of at least two years' duration at approved schools abroad or, exceptionally, have acquired other specialised or uncommon skills and experience relevant to the industry.

    7. Permits are available for entertainers and sportsmen who meet the appropriate skills criteria—the lower age limit referred to in paragraph 3 does not apply to these permits. Professional sportsmen taking part in competitions of international standing do not normally require permits.

    8. A permit may be issued to any person if, in the opinion of the Secretary of State for Employment, his employment is in the national interest.

    9. Permits may be issued for on-the-job training or work experience with employers which can be put to use in the trainee's home country but not acquired there. This arrangement is primarily intended to benefit developing countries and their citizens. The training must be for a limited period, as far as possible agreed in advance, and extension of approval beyond one year will be given only if satisfactory progress is being maintained. Approval may also be given for employment in a supernumerary capacity, normally not lasting longer than a year, of young overseas nationals of non-EEC countries who come here to widen their occupational experience and in some cases also to improve their knowledge of English. The overseas national will not be allowed to remain here for ordinary employment at the end of the approved period of training or work experience. The age limits and the resident labour requirement referred to in paragraph 3 do not apply to these permits.

    10. Overseas students who wish to take paid employment in their free time or during their vacations must first obtain the consent of the Department of Employment. A student must provide satisfactory evidence from his college that employment will not interfere with his course of study. Permission will be given only where there is no suitable resident labour available and the wages and conditions of employment are not less favourable than those obtaining in the area for similar work. An overseas student is not entitled to remain in the country for employment on completion of his studies except that overseas student and pupil nurses and pupil midwives trained by NHS authorities and needed to meet their staffing requirements may be given permission to remain in employment as State registered nurses, state enrolled nurses or State certified midwives provided no suitable resident labour is available. The lower age limit referred to in paragraph 3 does not apply to nurses or midwives.

    11. The holder of a work permit is not permanently restricted to the particular job for which the permit was issued but will be expected to remain in the same occupation and will require the consent of the Department of Employment for any change of job. A change will be approved only if the proposed employment would have satisfied the relevant conditions for the issue of a permit to a person overseas.

    12. Leave to remain may be granted by the Home Office to permit holders who continue in approved employment. After four years in approved employment they may apply to the Home Office for the removal of the time limit on their stay. If the time limit is removed they may take any employment they wish without reference to the Department of Employment.