On the 5th January 2010 Alan Johnson (the Home Secretary) confirmed that the National Identity Register is linked to an Individual’s National Insurance Number. Mr Johnson said that “a National insurance number will be used to aid identity verification checks for Identity Cards, and in time, passports”. This leads one to wonder whether, in time, National Insurance numbers will also be used to ensure a migrant has been paying taxes and has been “economically active” when applying under the new Earned Citizenship system, due to be implemented in July 2011.
The new Earned Citizenship System will be split into 3 parts:
- Temporary Residence (time spent on Tier 1 (formerly HSMP) or Tier 2 (formerly UK Work Permit))
- Probationary Citizenship
- British Citizenship or Permanent Residence
In order for a migrant to progress from the Temporary Residence stage to the Probationary Citizenship stage he or she will need to:
- Spend a minimum amount of time in the UK – 5 years for Tier 1 (Highly Skilled) & Tier 2 (Skilled) migrants
- Obey the law
- Pass an English Language Test and / or a Life in the United Kingdom Test
- Meet additional requirements – those on the Work route will need to still be employed and paying taxes
By providing Tier 1 and Tier 2 migrants with an Identity Card and linking the National Identity Register to National Insurance Numbers will the UK Border Agency in future check with the HM Revenue & Customs to ensure tax compliance? At present a worker normally provides a letter from his or her employer to confirm that the employment is ongoing but no investigation is made by the UK Border Agency as to whether taxes are being paid.
If in future the UK Border Agency intends to check whether an individual is employed and paying taxes will they:
- Request a letter of employment and ask the employer to declare that all taxes are being legally paid?, OR
- Request confirmation from the HM Revenue and Customs? If so what happens where the migrant does not have a National Insurance Number? Where they have yet to submit a Self Assessment Tax Return? Where they owe outstanding tax to the HM Revenue and Customs? Will issues negatively affect an application?
Of course, all of these questions are simply theoretical at the moment, however it is worth considering as the Government has come under pressure to make it more difficult for migrants to gain UK Permanent Residence & Citizenship (hence the Earned Citizenship system). This is due in part to the prospect of UK population hitting 70 million by 2028 & greater pressure on Public Services etc.
If you are a Tier 1 or Tier 2 migrant Commonwealth Contractors recommends gaining a National Insurance Number and ensuring all appropriate taxes are paid to the HM Revenue and Customs during the course of Tier 1 or 2 employment. If you are a freelance contractor on a Tier 1 visa it may be a good idea to avoid using a Contractor Limited Company until Probationary Citizenship has been secured. For Non EEA nationals on Tier 1 visas better options exist for dealing with project billings than using a Contractor Limited Company.
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