Thursday, 3 July 2014

A Seasonal Registration Card?

The JEP reported recently on problems arising from the registration cards and the tourism industry:

"Everyone who now comes to the Island to work has to pay the £75 fee for the card issued under the Control of Housing and Work Laws that came into force last year. But industry leaders say that the charge is more than what it costs for a passport and many of those who have to pay are only in Jersey for a matter of weeks."

Now this seems to be to be an almost perfect example of what Karl Popper called the law of unintended consequences, that when you lay out a blueprint, and plan for some eventualities, there will often be unexpected consequences that had not been foreseen.

No one has yet come up with any solutions, and yet I can see an obvious one. Why not have a "seasonal registration card", say at £20 per employee, for anyone who is over here just for seasonal work? The card can be limited to just so many months from the start date on it, and if the employee returns, to ensure they are seasonal, a new card can be issued.

If, however, the employee decided to take a more permanent job, and stay in the Island, they would have to get a standard registration card at £75 on the expiry of their seasonal card. This would ensure the means of controlling immigration remained, while at the same time, allowing for seasonal workers.

Now I would suggest that this option be limited to tourism and farming, the two industries which employ seasonal staff. The reason for that is that property developers have also been known to bring in cheap outside labour to work on projects, but that is not seasonal, and would potentially damage the labour market - and property developers, if they want to do that, can certainly afford the full £75.

So the seasonal registration card would be a special concession with regard to specifically seasonal work, rather than just available to any business.

There is a model for this kind of situation, which while not exactly a perfect analogue, does provide a parallel. I can work in Jersey and bring my own car, and have UK number plates, which can be retained for a one year. But if I am resident here for more than one year, then I must register my vehicle immediately and change the foreign number plates for Jersey ones.

I think if not an exact parallel, it certainly allows a differentiation between the transient resident and the permanent one, and the same kind of idea could be incorporated into registration cards, suitably amending the law.

Having a "seasonal registration card" that allowed a worker to come for just the summer months, at a reduced cost of £20, would solve the problems faced by tourism and agriculture, while at the same time, the requirement to replace it with the existing registration card system (of £75) if resident for more tha those months would retain the controls needed for immigration.


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