7th January 2010
From 6 January 2010 all sponsored skilled workers are required to obtain an Identity Card for Foreign Nationals (ICFN) when they apply to extend their stay in the UK under Tier 2 of the Points Based System (PBS). This means that all applicants, and their dependent family members, must attend a biometric enrolment centre to provide their biometrics (fingerprints and a photograph).
Once the biometrics have been provided they are checked against existing UKBA records, and then stored on UKBA systems and on the identity card’s own secure electronic chip.
The ICFN has been introduced to help combat illegal working and reduce illegal immigration. It is designed to enable holders to confirm their identity and their immigration status, and to access their entitlements more easily. If the holders of an ICFN travel outside the UK during their time here, they will be required to show the card together with their national passport at the port or airport when they leave the UK and when they return.
Process and timings
The introduction of ICFN for Tier 2 PBS will have a significant impact on the timeframe for processing further leave to remain applications (FLR).
The application for further leave to remain may be made in one of two ways:-
• by Postal Application; or
• by arranging an Appointment in Person at UKBA.
The biometric and FLR application may only be made once a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) has been assigned.
Applicants who wish to apply in person may book a premium appointment. The appointment will enable them to attend a UKBA biometric enrolment centre and register their biometrics and submit the application for FLR on the same day. The application will then be processed and the ICFN will be sent to the applicant within ten working days. Applicants who are changing employment under Tier 2 may only commence their new role once the ICFN has been issued to them.
Please note that there are currently very few premium processing appointments available and UKBA have indicated that there will be no further appointments available until mid-March 2010. Consequently, most applicants will have to submit their FLR application by post.
Postal applications require the standard forms, supporting documents and passports to be sent to UKBA offices in Durham. Current indications are that it will take four weeks before a letter is sent to the applicant requiring them to enrol biometrics. Applicants should then attend a biometric enrolment centre to provide fingerprints and photograph to then enable the caseworker in Durham to continue processing the application. It is likely to be a further four weeks before the ICFN is issued.
Consequently, in-country applicants under Tier 2 should be aware that the FLR process will take eight to ten weeksduring which time their passports will be retained.
Given the inconvenience that the new process will cause to applicants, consideration should be given to applying for Entry Clearance (a visa from overseas) as an alternative to FLR in the UK. Entry Clearance processes normally take ten to fifteen working days, depending on the location.
Employers should be aware of the impact of the new FLR process on the overall Tier 2 Sponsorship process. Resident Labour Market testing for Tier 2 general applications is currently set at four weeks of advertising. A CoS may only be issued once a genuine attempt has been made to recruit from within the resident labour market. Time should be added to the advertising period for consideration to be given to any applicants from the European Economic Area who have applied so that they may be offered the role if they are suitably qualified. The combined processes of sponsorship and FLR mean that the entire Tier 2 PBS process will take twelve to sixteen weeks from start to finish in the UK.