The length of time taken to deal with an application for a work permit to employ a non-European economic area national will always depend on the individual circumstances of the case concerned. In the first six months of this year the average monthly number of applications received was about 1,420 which was a significant increase on the level in the same period for 1999. After a considerable effort by my Department involving the allocation of three additional staff, procedural simplification and overtime working, the processing time was reduced to about 15 working days by late July.
However, the numbers of applications received in July, August and September were 1650, 2,116 and 2,366 respectively. This level of increase, combined with staff turnover has clearly placed pressure on resources and the processing time has been pushed out to about six weeks. A range of streamlining and organisational initiatives are being taken to speed up the processing of applications and this will be supplemented by further staff increases as appropriate. My objective is to get processing time down to around one week.