Work Permits Briefing
About this Briefing: The Ethnic Minorities Law
This briefing has been produced from the presentation given by
Aaliya Seyal of the Ethnic Minorities Law Centre, to a recent
meeting of UNISON Scotland's Overseas Nurses Network. It was agreed
that the information presented should be published as a briefing
for all branches to assist in supporting and organising workers
in Scotland who are from overseas.
Work permits are legal documents applied for
by UK based employers who wish to employ people who do not have
an automatic right to work in the UK (this is people who are not
citizens of the UK or the European Economic Area and are not entitled
to work here). The employer must apply for a work permit for an
employee before the employee can start working for him/her.
To apply for a work permit the employer should
contact Work Permits UK which is the Home Office's Immigration
and Nationality Directorate which administers work permits.
A work permit is normally granted for a length
of contract and a visa is granted in line with the length of the
work permit up to a maximum of five years.
Rights of Work Permit Holders
Work permit holders have the same rights of
employment as any other worker. The work permit does not alter
any contract of employment or employment right. This means that
work permit holders are entitled to:
- wage slips
- P45 when leaving employment
- P60 at the end of the financial year
- Statutory annual leave - 4 weeks paid, in the first year of
employment this would be calculated on a pro-rata basis as for
During the validity of the visa / work permit
the holder may travel abroad for holidays without needing a fresh
visa to return to the UK. However individuals should take a copy
of their work permit with them in case the Immigration Officer
requests sight of it on entry back into the UK.
Work Permits and the Employer
The Employer does not have the right to
retain the passport of the work permit holder or the actual work
permit. Employers have to retain copies for their own records,
but the original documents are the possessions of the work permit
holder not the employer.
Work permits are not transferable. They are issued
to allow an individual to work for a particular employer. If a
work permit holder wishes to change employment, the new employer
must seek permission from Work Permits UK before they can employ
the individual. An individual is unable to start employment with
the new employer until permission is granted.
A condition of granting a work permit to an employer
is that an appropriate wage for the job be paid. An employer who
pays wages that are substantially lower than the industry-wide
average may be acting in breach of an undertaking provided to
Work Permits UK. Work Permits UK will receive complaints from
workers who are being badly treated by employers and can take
action against the employer. However it is important to consider
all possible implications for the worker, including the fact he
or she could be dismissed. The TUC suggests seeking advice from
an experienced legal advisor on such issues.
Family and Partners
The spouse or unmarried partner may qualify under
immigration rules to join the work permit holder in the UK. The
partner must satisfy the Home Office that they are in a relationship
with the work permit holder, they intend to live together, can
be maintained and accommodated without resorting to public funds
(see definition below) and the partner does not intend to remain
in the UK longer than the work permit holder. Unmarried children
under the age of 18 may also be admitted to the UK.
Families are expected to apply for entry clearance
prior to their arrival in the UK at the British Embassy, High
Commission or Consulate in their normal country of residence.
Proof of work permit will be required. In a country where there
is no British Embassy, Commission or Consulate individuals visas
can be obtained from a mission designated to accept applications
on that country's behalf. Information on visas can be obtained
from the Home Office or Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Persons admitted as family members are free to
take up employment without seeking permission or requiring work
permits. They will not be able to access public funds. Provisions
have been introduced in extension of work permit applications
for family member to be listed as dependants, and a separate application
form is not required.
Work permit Time Limits
To extend the work permit the employer must complete
form WP1X. This must be done before the current work permit and
visa expire. An employee can continue to work while the application
is being considered as long as the extension was applied for before
the expiry of the work permit or visa.
After four years continuous employment on a work
permit the work permit holder may apply for indefinite leave to
remain in the UK provided s/he is still required for the job.
An application has to be completed, together with proof the applicant
is still required for the job, and various other documents including
proof of employment for 4 years, so it is important individuals
keep their P60 slips.
Periods of unemployment or employment without
a work permit will not be counted towards the 4 year period. Short
periods between jobs of up to 3 months will probably not count
against continuous employment, and short holidays abroad will
Work permit holders and their partners and children
are not allowed to access public funds. This means:
- Housing under Part VI or VII of the Housing Act 1996 and under
Part II of the Housing Act 1985, Part I or II of the Housing
(Scotland) Act 1987, Part II of the Housing (Northern Ireland)
Order 1981 or Part II of the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order
- Attendance allowance, severe disablement allowance, invalid
care allowance, and disability living allowance under Part III
of the Social Security Contribution and Benefits Act 1992, income
support, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, council tax benefit,
disabled person's tax credit and housing benefit under Part
VII of that Act; a social fund payment under Part VIII of that
Act; child benefit under Part IX of that Act; or income based
jobseekers' allowance under the Jobseekers Act 1995, (and the
equivalent legislation for Northern Ireland).
Issues for UNISON
More and more workers from overseas are coming
to work in Scotland. They have problems and issues that need addressing
in the workplace, as well as advice and support on citizenship
and other matters.
It is important that UNISON is able to assist
these workers, and organise and support them. Branches can ensure
that any overseas workers are not being exploited and are aware
of their workplace rights.
Overseas Nurses Network
UNISON Scotland's Overseas Nurses Network was
launched in December 2002 following the work of Sofi Taylor of
the Glasgow Health Branch and Branch Administrator Sheila McGeoch.
The Network provides an opportunity for overseas health workers
to meet, access information and support, and develop organisation
to meet the needs of overseas workers.
UK Work Permits:
The Home Office
UK visas website (for information on visa requirements) www.ukvisas.gov.uk.
UNISON Scotland's Overseas Health Workers Pages:
Department of Health Guidance for International Nurses:
The Ethnic Minorities Law Centre:
@ the P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Tel: 0845 355 0845
Fax: 0141 221 8953