Does my business need a Skilled Worker Licence?

Does my business need a Skilled Worker Licence?

If you are wondering what a Skilled Worker Licence is then you are not on your own in not understanding the planned new points based immigration system. Many UK business owners are still getting to grips with how brexit and the end of free movement will impact on their recruitment strategy. Business owners are also grappling with the economic fallout of Covid-19 and trying to work out how Covid-19 will affect their business and their recruitment needs. However, the reality is that many businesses rely on overseas workers and therefore need to know about the Skilled Worker Licence and how to apply for one.

Skilled Worker Licence and Sponsor Licence solicitors 

If you don’t know whether your business should apply for a Skilled Worker Licence or if you need advice on your existing Sponsor Licence, such as with its management or with a forthcoming Home Office audit, call our specialist sponsor licence solicitors on telephone:telephone] or complete our online enquiry form.

brexit changes to UK recruitment 

Many people think ‘’brexit is done’’ but to immigration solicitors that is far from the case as most UK businesses won't feel the impact of brexit until the end of free movement on the 1 January 2021. That’s also the date that the government plans to introduce the new UK points based immigration system. Those two events will profoundly impact the recruitment processes of businesses, large and small, across the UK. 

How will the new points based immigration system affect recruitment?

The free movement of UK and EU citizens will end on the 31 December 2020. If an EU citizen is resident in the UK by the cut-off date of the 31 December 2020 they can apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, provided that they make their settled status application by June 2021.

Once successfully registered on the EU Settlement Scheme, EU citizens can continue to live and work in the UK free of immigration control. That means EU nationals with settled status won't need visas to live or take up employment in the UK. However, what happens if your business needs to recruit a worker from the EU with specialist skills after the end of free movement on the 31 December 2020? Essentially, if the EU worker isn’t already in the UK or doesn’t secure settled status or pre-settled status by June 2021 your business will need a Skilled Worker Licence to employ them. 

The new points based immigration system will therefore affect UK business owners by:

  • Making it harder to employ EU workers unless the worker already has settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme or meets the settled status eligibility criteria and makes their application by June 2021
  • Involve more red tape because for your business to employ a non-EEA national or an EU citizen without settled status your business will need a Home Office issued permit or Skilled Worker Licence (currently called a sponsor licence).

You may think that the new points based immigration system won't affect you and your business because of rising unemployment in the UK through the Covid-19 generated recession but many of the vacancies that result in overseas recruitment from both non-EEA and EU countries involve workers with skills or experience that either doesn’t exist in the UK labour market or is in very short supply.

Will the points based immigration system bring any benefits to business owners?

Immigration solicitors can see that there will be some potential benefits to business owners with the introduction of the new points based immigration system. The main perceived advantages of the planned new immigration system are:

  • The abolition of the Resident Labour Market Test that employers currently have to undertake before they are able to recruit a non-EEA national on a Tier 2 (General) visa to fill a job vacancy
  • The reduction in level of qualifications needed for an overseas worker to qualify for a work visa (reduced to the equivalent of A level standard)
  • No visa caps on the number of work visas issued.

Does my business need a Skilled Worker Licence?

If you don’t think that your recruitment needs can be met from within the UK labour market then the probability is that your business will need a Skilled Worker Licence unless the specialist nature of your business is such that any recruits could apply for a global talent visa. With a global talent visa the visa applicant does not need a job offer to make an application and therefore an employer doesn’t have to hold a Skilled Worker Licence or Sponsor Licence to be able to employ them.

If you are in business in the digital, technological and scientific or research sectors then it is best to take immigration and employment law advice on the likelihood of whether your overseas job applicants are likely to qualify for global talent visas either under the category of exceptional talent or promise. 

How does a business owner obtain a Skilled Worker Licence?

The end of freedom of movement on the 31 December 2020 for EU nationals is making many business owners think about their recruitment needs and if they will need to apply for a sponsor licence or Skilled Worker Licence from the Home Office. Failure to get ready for January 2021 will mean that businesses won't be able to employ a non-EEA national or EU citizen who is subject to immigration controls and requires a work visa to work in the UK. That means their potential field of candidates for specialist roles could be quite limited, especially as UK job candidates who meet the job specification may be in high demand with other UK employers who haven’t secured a Skilled Worker Licence.

The government has already started to advise employers that it is best to audit recruitment and staff training needs now in anticipation of the implementation of the new points based immigration system on the 1 January 2021. That way employers can: 

  • Commence training programmes with their existing workforce if there is a potential skills gap
  • Consider automation processes for low skilled roles as the new points based immigration system doesn’t include a lower skilled visa route for overseas workers
  • Assess training or apprenticeship options to address any skills gap or visa gap because of the lack of lower skilled work visa route in the new points based immigration system  
  • Review whether existing EU workers need assistance with settled status applications under the EU Settlement Scheme 
  • Apply to the Home Office for a Skilled Worker Licence.

By making your application for a sponsor licence or Skilled Worker Licence now business owners prevent delays in the processing of applications in January 2021 and hopefully avoid having job vacancies left unfilled because of the UK skills shortage and lack of Sponsor Licence to enable the business to recruit overseas workers after the 1 January 2021.

To obtain a Skilled Worker Licence the process is the same as the Sponsor Licence application process that is currently in force for the recruitment of non-EEA nationals on work visas. All the new scheme does is extend the Sponsor Licence provisions to EU citizens who don’t have settled status or who are not eligible to apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme by the deadline of June 2021.

To successfully apply for a Skilled Worker Licence your business needs to be able to demonstrate that:

  • The company has appropriate systems in place to monitor sponsored Employees on work visas 
  • The key personnel managing the Sponsor Licence have no unspent convictions for immigration offences or for other specified crimes
  • The company is a trading business with genuine job vacancies. 

It is best to speak to an immigration solicitor about whether your business meets the eligibility criteria for a Sponsor Licence and your choice of key personnel to manage the Sponsor Licence. That is because your choice of key personnel can make the difference between your Sponsor Licence application being successful and being refused by a Home Office official. 

Does a business need a Skilled Worker Licence if it already has a Sponsor Licence? If your business already holds a Sponsor Licence to recruit Tier 2 (General) visas or Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer visa applicants then the government has said that businesses will be granted a new Skilled Worker licence or Intra-Company Transfer licence automatically. The new style licence will expire on the expiry date of your original Sponsor Licence and your business will then need to apply for an extension of the licence.

How much will the Skilled Worker Licence cost?

The Home Office has indicated that the fees for a Skilled Worker Licence will be set at:

  • £1,476 for large employers or 
  • £536 for a smaller employer. 

In addition to the Skilled Worker Licence application fee your business will also need to pay:

  • The Certificate of Sponsorship fee of £199 for each work visa applicant 
  • The immigration skills charge for each work visa applicant. The current immigration skills charge is set at £1,000 per work visa holder for the first twelve months. There is then an additional £500 fee for each six month period but the fee is reduced to £364 for each sponsored worker if your business is classed as a small or medium size business by the Home Office.

How does an overseas worker get a skilled worker visa?

To enable you to make a decision on whether to apply for your first Skilled Worker Licence it is important to understand the link between your Skilled Worker Licence and your overseas job applicant’s journey to the UK.

An overseas worker will get a skilled worker visa through:

  • Your business advertising a vacancy and the overseas worker applying to fill the post. At present Sponsor Licence holders have to conduct the Resident Labour Market Test before being able to employ a worker on a work visa but the Resident Labour Market Test will be abolished when the new points based immigration system is introduced in January 2021. However the work visa applicant will have to meet minimum education qualifications and the job will have to meet the minimum salary threshold
  • Once the new job recruit is identified your business allocates the prospective employee with a Certificate of Sponsorship
  • The overseas worker applies for a work visa from the Home Office with the Certificate of Sponsorship reference as evidence that they have the offer of a job in the UK from a sponsoring employer and additional evidence that they meet the minimum required number of points for a work visa under the points based immigration system.

UK Skilled Worker Licence and Sponsor Licence solicitors  

Now is the time to analyse your business recruitment needs and apply to the Home Office for a Skilled Worker Licence so that your business is ready for the end of free movement and the new UK points based immigration system.

OTS Solicitors specialise in business immigration and personal immigration law and are recommended in the two leading law directories, The Legal 500 and Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession. The specialist Sponsor Licence solicitors provide fast and easy to follow immigration and employment law advice looking at your best Brexit options and follow-up advice and legal services from applying for a sponsor licence, applying for a Skilled Worker Licence, sponsor licence management services, settled status one day application service for your existing EU citizen Employees and HR staff training on sponsor licence compliance and reporting duties and the new Skilled Worker Licence application process.  

For expert immigration and employment law advice  call the Sponsor Licence lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us here.

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