Sponsorship Licence Reforms
Business Immigration News for UK employers
There is a new government roadmap. This time the roadmap is on sponsor licence reforms. The changes will impact on UK employers and the sponsor licences required to sponsor skilled worker visa, intra company transfer visa and temporary visa holders. In this article our Sponsorship Licence lawyers look at the key changes.
UK Online and London Based Sponsorship Licence lawyers and Immigration Solicitors
The sponsor licence roadmap timetable
When it comes to sponsor licences and sponsoring skilled migrant workers it pays to keep up to date with planned changes to business immigration laws and the UK immigration rules. The Home Office has announced changes to the sponsorship licence system that will impact on all those employers who are currently sponsoring overseas workers or who plan to do so in the future.
The changes are gradual. They will come into force on a piecemeal basis from now until early 2024. However, Sponsorship Licence lawyers don’t rule out further sponsor licence announcements as one thing is certain; there is no certainty over immigration planning and changes. That can make it hard for UK employers and HR directors to keep up with sponsor licence reforms and make recruitment planning difficult because of potential changes.
Sponsorship Licence lawyers understand the frustrations of UK employers struggling to recruit from overseas and to manage their sponsor licences but here is what we know so far about the sponsor licence roadmap from 2021 to 2024.
Sponsorship Licence reforms in 2021
The Home Office has said that during 2021 sponsor licence reforms should include:
- Changes to and simplification of the paperwork needed to apply for a sponsor licence.
- Speedier processing of sponsor licence applications because of simplification of evidence required in support of the sponsor licence application.
- A support service for small businesses applying for a sponsor licence.
- A review of sponsor licence fees.
- The availability of a skilled worker visa eligibility checking application or tool.
- A pilot project between the Home Office and the HMRC to monitor and check that skilled migrant workers are being paid in accordance with their certificates of sponsorship or, in other words, in accordance with the relevant minimum salary threshold.
Sponsor licence reforms from 2022 to early 2024
Looking further ahead, more wide sweeping plans to the sponsorship system are planned by the Home Office. The emphasis by the Home Office is on ‘working together’, not just with UK employers who are required to use the sponsor licence system if they want to hire overseas workers but also with other government departments and agencies so that there is a sharing of information.
The other key word or concept used by Home Office officials tasked with implementing sponsor licence reform is improvement of the ‘customer service’. By that, the Home Office means providing a quicker and simpler route for a UK employer to secure their first sponsor licence and to renew their sponsor licence.
The Home Office key planned reforms include:
- Better use of information technology with a modernised and computerised sponsor licence system that will speed up the sponsor licence application process. The new information technology is due to be rolled out between 2022 to 2023.
- The partial completion of the skilled worker visa application by a partially populated form created on the information available through the certificate of sponsorship. This improvement is referred to as ‘Sponsor a Visa’ and should start to come into play in around the middle of 2022.
- The improved sponsor management system to help UK employers comply with their reporting and recording duties through increased computerisation, prompts, working together with other government departments and functionality. This improvement is referred to as ‘Manage a Licence’. It should be operational by late 2022.
- The reformed sponsor licence application process, referred to as ‘Become a Sponsor’ to ease the requirement for paperworkin support of the sponsor licence application when some of the information is already held by other government departments and agencies and can be validated direct. Expect this change in early 2023.
- Targeted compliance through Home Office officials using technology and data held by other government departments and agencies to focus on sponsoring employers who may not be complying with their sponsor licence reporting and recording duties. For example, a sponsoring employer not paying their skilled worker visa holders the minimum salary threshold or not getting their sponsored employees to fill the job role specified on their certificate of sponsorship.
The future of the sponsor licence
Sponsorship Licence lawyers are a little sceptical about the timescales for the ambitious Home Office IT and computerisation reforms and changes. However, everyone wholeheartedly agrees that the sponsor licence system requires modernisation and needs to be made ‘fit for purpose’ in post Brexit UK.
Some critics would argue that these planned changes to the sponsor licence process should have been implemented prior to or at the same time as the introduction of the UK points-based immigration system in January 2021. That is because the end of the Brexit transition period and the cessation of free movement for EU nationals on the 31 December 2020 meant many more UK employers needed to apply for their first sponsor licence and to comply with what can sometimes feel like onerous and cumbersome sponsor licence reporting and recording duties.
Only time will tell if Sponsorship Licence lawyers are right to be a bit dubious about the ability of the Home Office to deliver the promise IT improvements in the government planned timescales. In the meantime, if your business is struggling with your first sponsor licence application or you are worried about sponsor licence compliance, help is on hand with expert Sponsorship Licence lawyers and sponsorship licence management services.
UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors