Police registration scheme suspension: what does it mean for HR?

Ending the requirement to register with the police will come as a welcome relief to employers, as Joanna Hunt and Francesca Baker explain

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A welcome piece of good news for foreign workers in the UK was quietly released by the government late last week. With immediate effect, the requirement under the Immigration Rules for certain foreign nationals to register with the police (the police registration scheme) has been suspended.

What is the police registration scheme all about?

For a long time, the police registration scheme has required foreign nationals of specified nationalities aged 16 or over, who are granted a visa of more than six months in length in certain migration categories, to register with the police on arrival in the UK. This often meant a trip to the Overseas Visitors Records Office, the centre set up by the police to manage the registration process, to obtain a certificate confirming the individual's status and address. 

This document had to be kept and updated with the person's new address and presented at every subsequent visa application. Failure to register was a breach of the visa holder's conditions, meaning they could have their permission to remain curtailed or application for a visa extension refused if they failed to register or were unable to present an up-to-date certificate.

What has changed?

This rule was therefore a source of stress and anxiety for many foreign workers in the UK, but thankfully is now a thing of the past. The requirement to register with the police will no longer be a condition on someone's visa status – this means that they will not be required to evidence their registration with the police, nor will it be a requirement on any future grant of status. Employees who have been issued with a visa with the requirement to register with the police, but who are yet to travel, should have their visa reissued where possible or be notified of the changes in advance of travel.

The requirement will also fall away for those who have already registered. This means that foreign employees who are in the UK and have a police registration certificate will not need to retain or update their certificate. Those who have failed to register will also not now be expected to. Visa holders will have to bear in mind that they may still have to update the Home Office directly of changes to their personal circumstances.

Why will this be a welcome relief to employers and their workers?

On a practical level, this is good news for workers and their employers. The requirement to register was a logistical headache for visa holders, who had to find time from busy jobs to attend the centres to obtain their certificates and remember to update following any visa renewal. It will also avoid the fees involved with registration, which many employers ultimately covered on behalf of their workers. Unfortunately, employees who have already paid a fee to register with the police will not get a refund. It will also relieve some of the anxiety that visa holders carry that they may fall foul of the rules and lose their status in the UK.

The Home Office reasoning for suspending the scheme is that they already collect the data the registration scheme provides so there is no need for it to operate anymore. This is a pragmatic response particularly as the scheme has been redundant of late, with the Home Office increasingly turning a blind eye to applicants without certificates. Most importantly, though, the suspension of the scheme will remove the faint association with criminality that those who had to register had to bear. This can only help to promote the UK as a welcoming destination for foreign talent – good news for employers that are struggling to source the workers they need within the heated global labour market.

Joanna Hunt is head of immigration and Francesca Baker a trainee solicitor at Fieldfisher