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Is your firm prepared to work abroad?

In the latest Ask the TCS column, a Canadian company is preparing to bid on a contract related to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. But will a clause in the contract stop the company from pursuing this opportunity?

Dear TCS,

We are a British Columbia-based PR company that is currently in the midst of bidding on a contract in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. One element of the possible contract calls for the following:

"The service provider shall ensure compliance with the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, and subsequent amendments and shall only employ persons legally permitted to undertake paid employment in the U.K."

Are there any rules that may preclude us, as a wholly owned Canadian company, from taking a contract or working in the United Kingdom? Any help would be appreciated.

Sincerely,
A B.C. Company

Dear,

Thanks for your email. Your question comes at a very interesting time with respect to work issues in the United Kingdom. Here are a few things you should consider.

On the surface, the clause in your contract is relatively straightforward. Essentially, if your firm were to get this contract you would agree that any employees which your company pays in the U.K. would be legally authorized to work in the U.K. What is less clear is how the key players of your company would qualify for any needed work permits.

Many companies choose to hire a lawyer to help navigate U.K. immigration issues and this is something you may wish to consider as well. The Canadian High Commission has developed key relationships within the legal community in the U.K. I spoke with one such lawyer here in London and, not surprisingly, he is keeping a very close eye on the current changes and noted several options for you.

The U.K. government is in the process of implementing a cap on non-EU migrants to the U.K. to take effect on April 1, 2011. This, of course, will apply to Canadians. However, the details of the new rules have not yet been announced. How these new rules might impact your company is not clear. For example, there may be no impact on your company if the nature and length of the work your firm was planning to undertake meant that your staff could work in the U.K. under a temporary worker category.

If you wish to establish a subsidiary or formal representation in the U.K., you may be able to assign a senior manager from your firm as the sole representative of an overseas firm in the U.K. In fact, there are currently no plans to change the mechanism under which an individual can apply when that firm is establishing a subsidiary or representation in the U.K. Your Canada-based employees would be able to travel to the U.K. occasionally under the "business visitors" category.

Your company could also apply to sponsor additional workers under the U.K.’s Tier 2 category – although this is a category which is very much in flux at the moment. Tier 2 is for people coming to the U.K. with a job offer to fill a gap in the workforce that cannot be filled by a settled worker.

Another option for your employees who meet the precise salary and education requirements spelled out in U.K. regulations is to apply under the Tier 1 Highly Skilled Workers category. Tier 1 allows highly skilled individuals to immigrate to the U.K. without any kind of sponsorship from an employer. Highly skilled individuals include doctors, scientists, engineers, MBAs and other educated workers. These workers do not need a job offer in advance of applying and, although there will likely be changes to this category as part of the current review, the existing system is in place until April 1, 2011.

The U.K.’s Home Office, the government department responsible for immigration control, security and order, contains a self-assessment tool that can help specific personnel determine if they qualify under Tier 1 criteria. Applicants using this approach must clearly demonstrate that they satisfy each of the requirements regarding financial credentials, education, etc.

The other significant point with respect to Tier 1 applicants is that individuals could apply now (or before April 1, 2011) and the permit would be good for up to 2 years. In other words, it does not have to be activated immediately. The British High Commission in Ottawa processes most Tier 1 applications within 2 to 3 weeks.

As I mentioned, many applicants find it useful to work with a lawyer to ensure that their paperwork is complete. While we cannot recommend any one law firm, we can provide you with a list of reputable firms.

You may also wish to visit the U.K. Border Agency website.

Good luck with your London 2012 contract. Don’t hesitate to contact us again if you have any further questions or if you need help with other London 2012 opportunities.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Daubeny
Counsellor (Trade, Investment, Science & Technology)
High Commission of Canada in the United Kingdom

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