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A guide to business immigration for small and medium businesses

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Whilst all business owners are heartedly sick of hearing and reading about Brexit the reality is that with the end of free movement many small and medium UK businesses are having to take business immigration law advice for the first time. In this article head of business immigration, Hans Sok Appadu, looks at business immigration for SMEs and those wanting to come to the UK to set up a business.

UK Immigration solicitors

London based OTS Solicitors are specialists in business immigration law. If your business needs advice on applying for a sponsor licence, recruiting a skilled migrant worker or you want to come to the UK to set up a business call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form. Appointments are available by phone call or video call.

Why do SMEs need business immigration advice?

You may think that your business doesn’t need business immigration law advice but that is often because you aren’t aware of how business immigration advice can help your business. For example:

  • Ensuring that right to work checks are completed properly and in accordance with the right to work legislation. These checks apply to all employees whether or not they are British citizens or have indefinite leave to remain or have settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. Right to work checks and the need to repeat them for some employees can be a bit of a minefield. For example, employers can't require their employees to produce evidence of their settled status as part of the right to work check if the check is carried out before the 30 June 2021. For example, if an EU worker doesn’t have pre-settled status or settled status you may need to repeat their right to work check after the 30 June 2021 to remain compliant with the right to work legislation
  • Securing a Sponsor Licence so your business can recruit skilled migrant workers from either non-EEA or EEA countries. That is because with the end of free movement you will not be able to recruit EU workers who arrived in the UK after the 31 December 2020 unless your business has a sponsor licence to sponsor their Employment. You may think that your business can ‘get away’ with it and not have to rely on overseas workers as you will be able to recruit UK settled workers because of the financial impact of COVID-19. However, you may find that there is a skills shortage or that the availability of EU workers dries up because they have chosen to return to the EU rather than apply for settled status in the UK
  • Help with hiring skilled migrant workers through assisting you through the management of your sponsor licence and securing skilled worker visas for successful job applicants. When you are an SME it can be cheaper and more cost effective to get business immigration legal advice as you don’t have the HR support in-house to manage the Sponsor Licence or fully get to grips with the allocation of certificates of sponsorship to skilled worker visa applicants.

Who can work in the UK without a visa?

The end of free movement for EU citizens has made the job of recruiting workers that much harder as whether your company is a multi-national or an SME you don’t want to fall foul of Immigration rules or right to work legislation or expose your business to employment law claims.

Any UK employer, whatever their size, has to check that all employees have the legal right to work in the UK. Failure to carry out the check or to employ an illegal worker is an offence. A worker has a right to work in the UK if they are:

  • A British Citizen
  • An EEA citizen or citizen of Switzerland who has settled status or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme or permanent residence
  • An EEA citizen or citizen of Switzerland who came to live in the UK before 11pm on the 31 December 2020 (before the end of free movement under EU treaty rights)
  • Entitled to live and work in the UK as they have indefinite leave to remain status
  • Subject to Immigration controls but their visa allows them to work in the UK. For example, they have a skilled worker visaor a health and care worker visa or a student visa (students can usually work on a part time basis subject to their specific visa conditions).

It is easy to get right to work rules wrong if you are an SME. For example, you might reasonably assume that someone who is in the UK on a business visa has a right to work but under their visa conditions a person in the UK on a business visa can only undertake what are referred to as prescribed business activities.

Applying for a Sponsor Licence as an SME

If you are an SME you may think that you can get around the need for a Sponsor Licence by recruiting an overseas worker with the specialist skills you need for your business by employing them through an agency. The Immigration rules are clear that you and an Employment agency can't do that as any worker recruited by an Employment agency on a skilled worker visa needs to be employed by the business they’re working for rather than through an agency arrangement.

Applying for a sponsor licence as an SME isn’t as difficult as you might think if you get expert business immigration advice and get business immigration solicitors to sort out the Sponsor Licence application for you. To make things easier you can then outsource the Sponsor Licence management to a Sponsor Licence management service. Most business immigration solicitors offer a package of support to secure the Sponsor Licence for you, sort out the steps your business needs to take to get certificates of sponsorship allocated and also provide the sponsor licence management service so your business gets a streamlined hassle-free service.

Entering the UK to set up an SME business

If you plan to move to the UK from overseas to set up a business in the UK then there are a number of visa options available, such as:

Business immigration solicitors can assess whether you and your business meet the eligibility criteria for these visa opportunities and work out which visa best meets your needs.

UK business immigration solicitors

London based OTS Solicitors specialise in business immigration law and are recommended in the two leading law directories, Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession and Legal 500. For proactive streamlined advice on all your business immigration law, employment law and corporate law needs contact OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online. Appointments are available by phone or video call.

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