Himalayan News Service

London, January 8

British companies seeking to employ foreign employees will soon have to pay a higher fee to secure work permits.

The fee payable along with a work permit application will be increased from June 2004, official sources said.

They said businesses will be consulted on the level of the fee, which will be between 155 pounds and 180 pounds, for work permits and applications for schemes targetted at the hospitality and food processing sectors.

The revised fee, the sources added, was necessary to ensure that those who apply for the permits continue to pay the full cost of providing it.

A charge - between 95 pounds and 125 pounds - will also be levied on those who extend their stay in Britain under the work permit scheme, Sector Based Scheme, the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme and the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme.

Home office minister, Beverley Hughes, said, "It is in all our interests to harness the innovation, skills and productivity that new migrants can bring."

However, these benefits are reciprocal. It is only right that businesses who derive benefits from recruiting overseas workers pay the administrative costs of processing applications, rather than tax payers. The US, Australia and Canada charge

fees varying from 500 pounds to 1,000 pounds for work permits.

"Having a regulated but flexible managed migration policy is fundamental to our balanced approach to immigration - gaining public trust by tackling abuses in the asylum system while welcoming legal migrants who can boost our economy and society", Hughes said.

Companies currently have had to pay a flat 95 pound fee for consideration of work permit applications and 74 pounds for sector based scheme applications introduced in April and May 2003 respectively. These fees are reviewed on an annual basis.

The increase in fees is expected to save the taxpayer more than 30 pounds million a year, the sources further said.