The Home Office is proposing to charge prospective employers between £75 and £95 for each work permit application it receives from January 2003.
The proposed charge would apply to initial work permit applications, extension applications, and change of employment applications and appeals.
According to Work Permits UK, the organisation charged with administering applications on behalf of the Home Office, the fee would be charged regardless of the outcome of the decision to cover administrative costs, and no profit would be made.
A Home Office spokeswoman explained that the proposed charge would bring the UK in line with other European countries, and would be marginal compared with the cost of recruiting from overseas.
"Work permits are used by a relatively small number of businesses," she said. "The proposed charge means that users of the service will pay for it."
An open consultation with UK businesses over the proposals has just been completed, although the Home Office refused to say when the results would be made public.
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