Law firms struggle to resolve status of own foreign workers
A raft of top law firms have been drafted in to help the Government cope with new immigration standards as solicitors themselves struggle to resolve the status of their own foreign workers.CMS Cameron McKenna, Baker & McKenzie, Bird & Bird, Gherson, Hammonds, PwC Legal, Speechly Bircham and Wragge & Co are among the law firms appointed by the Border Agency in preparation for new immigration rules due to come into effect next month. The law firms will act as third-party auditors and advisers for companies seeking the sponsorship licence now needed to continue employing overseas workers. The unusual appointment of outside counsel comes as the agency struggles to cope with a flood of applications. The law firms will help carry out checks including onsite audits of employers' human resources systems from companies hoping to meet the new requirements. The deadline for applications was 1 October and those failing to obtain a licence by the end of November will find it hard to bring in overseas workers. The changes also affect law firms as while partners would fall into tier one of the five new tiers - meaning they do not need sponsorship - associates would normally fall into tier two and require a work permit sponsored by their employer. Most of the top 15 City law firms have applied for a licence in recent weeks but, so far, only magic circle firms Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance have been awarded licences. Law firms without a licence will be restricted from hiring non-European Union staff below partner level.Camerons is one of the only top City firms that has not yet applied for a sponsorship licence. The firm is intending to comply but said it is putting off the application as it intends to try and bring the bulk of its workers in under tier one. Bakers global migration associate Tony Haque said: "Many law firms have delayed applying until [the Government's] requirements became clearer. Firms could find themselves in a position, where they cannot get their [desired] people until the licence is approved." Speechly Bircham immigration solicitor Nick Hobson said: "Many law firms have questioned, in a downturn like this, why are they having to focus inward and invest valuable resources rather than focusing outward and getting work in?"
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