Immigration costs: should the employer always pay?

The financial cost of employing key staff from overseas never comes cheap to UK businesses. Whilst the inbound assignee’s relocation package is usually signed and agreed prior to the secondment's taking place, many employers find themselves still being asked to pay unanticipated visa costs long after the secondment has commenced, writes David Hugkulstone, director of business immigration practitioners at Smith Stone Walters UK.

The financial cost of employing key staff from overseas never comes cheap to UK businesses. Whilst the inbound assignee&#x;s relocation package is usually signed and agreed prior to the secondment's taking place, many employers find themselves still being asked to pay unanticipated visa costs long after the secondment has commenced,&#x;writes David Hugkulstone, director of business immigration practitioners at Smith Stone Walters UK.DependantsUnexpected visa costs routinely arise when a secondee to the United Kingdom requests assistance in financing the UK entry of additional family members after their assignment has commenced. Not only can filing this type of secondary immigration application prove costly but there is also a distinct possibility that such an application request could fall to be refused - especially if the request is being made on behalf of a son or daughter over the age of 18.With the introduction of a points-based immigration system, the UK Border Agency&#x;s (UKBA) ability to apply good judgment and/or compassion when considering such exceptional applications has sadly now been removed.Wherever possible, employers should, therefore, be looking to determine which family dependants will be seeking to accompany or join the assignee in the UK prior to the outset of their secondment. Productive discussions can then be held as to whether, for example, the assignee&#x;s mother-in-law really should form part of the intended relocation.To avoid further confusion, they should also set out whether the employee will be responsible for all or part of the related visa processing costs, including those associated with applying for a visa renewal.With the UKBA charging as much as &#x;809 for each dependant family member to be extended under Tier 2, filing fees for a family of four can now easily exceed &#x;3,000. It is, therefore, important for all parties to determine the bill payer at the earliest possible time.&#x;Lost passportsReplacing a lost or stolen passport is always a frustrating exercise, and increasingly an expensive chore. However, with the associated costs involved now running into hundreds of pounds, more and more employers are also being asked to foot these costs.Aside from the price of securing a new passport (which varies depending on the country of issue), the UKBA is now charging &#x;522 to arrange a transfer of certain visa conditions on a priority basis.The authorities will argue that filing such a request is possible by way of their postal service for the reduced rate of &#x;147. However, since turnaround times via this postal route cannot be guaranteed, the service is not considered a viable option for most frequent flyers.It makes sense, therefore, for employers to clearly define the parameters as to where and when they would be willing to financially support the filing of immigration applications for their expatriate staff and associated family members.Whilst I rarely advocate the need for yet another documented internal HR policy, a collective understanding in this area is likely to be worth its weight in gold ... or visa fees, come to that!Specialist UK immigration advice can be found by visiting&#x;www.smithstonewalters.com