The Sponsorship Licence Roadmap
Almost every other day the government announces another roadmap as the new buzz word. The feedback received from UK Sponsorship Licence lawyers is that when it comes to the sponsor licence roadmap and how to go from sponsor licence application to the recruitment of a skilled migrant worker , UK business owners, whether start-ups, SMEs or multi-nationals, just want certainty over direction and a clear passage without stops and starts. Immigration solicitors can certainly sympathise with the post Brexit recruitment frustrations experienced by some UK companies. This articles aims to give clear guidance on the sponsorship licence roadmap.
UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers
UK employers and the sponsor licence system
Under the UK points-based immigration system, since around 2008, some visa routes have required sponsorship by a UK employer. To sponsor an individual looking to come to the UK to live and work a company first needs to apply to the Home Office for a sponsor licence.
Under the sponsor licencing system, UK employers are approved and regulated by the Home Office and the employer is then delegated the task of allocating certificates of sponsorship and monitoring and reporting on their employed skilled migrant workers under the terms of their sponsor licence.
Unsurprisingly the sponsor licence system is full of checks and measures with sponsor licences having to be renewed every four years by the Home Office and with Home Office officials having the ability to monitor sponsor licence holders compliance with their sponsor licence reporting and recording duties with the potential for announced or unannounced compliance visits and audits. The ultimate penalty for non-compliance is the revocation of the sponsor licence.
The sponsor licence procedure undoubtedly places a heavy burden of responsibility on UK employers looking to sponsor skilled migrant workers . Whilst the requirement to report and record can be passed onto professional sponsor licence management services nonetheless the immigration rules place significant responsibility on UK businesses with sponsor licences to effectively help manage UK immigration control through the Home Office computerised sponsor management system (SMS).
The new points-based immigration system and sponsor licencing
On the 1 January 2021 the government brought in the new points-based immigration system timed to coincide with the end of the Brexit transition period and the cessation of free movement for EU nationals. Many UK employers did not see an immediate change to their recruitment policies but, with the passage of time and the closure of the EU Settlement Scheme on the 30 June 2021, it has become increasing clear that in many industries and sectors UK employers are struggling to recruit sufficient employees with the right skills. Sponsorship Licence lawyers are told that this is partially due to the government decision to not introduce a lower skilled work visa to coincide with the extension of immigration controls for EU nationals. This has particularly affected some sectors, such as the construction industry and transport firms.
The sponsored work routes
The following immigration visas require a sponsoring employer with a sponsor licence:
- The skilled worker visa – this replaced the previous work visa, the Tier 2 (General) visa. Some skilled migrant workers remain on Tier 2 (General) visas as their visas remain valid until expiry or curtailment by the Home Office.
- The intra company transfer visa – this enables internationally based companies to transfer overseas employees to the UK either on intra company transfer visas or the graduate intra-company trainee route.
- The temporary visa – this provides for some types of seasonal or short-term worker.
Which overseas workers require sponsored employment?
Brexit and the end of free movement for EU nationals changed which overseas workers require sponsored employment under a work visa. Until the 31 December 2020, EEA nationals could live and work in the UK free of immigration restrictions. If an EEA national arrived in the UK after that date, they have to comply with the same immigration rules as a non-EEA national. In addition, if an EU national who is eligible for pre-settled status or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme fails to make a late application to the scheme then they will require a visa to continue to live in the UK.
When it comes to which overseas workers need a sponsoring employer the position is complicated as on some visas a visa holder can work in the UK without requiring a sponsoring employer. For example, the family visa , the dependant visa, the graduate visa or the British national (overseas) visa.
Sponsorship Licence lawyers say that the important thing to note is that all workers are required to undergo a right to work check before they commence employment. If a worker only has time limited entry clearance, then the right to work check will need to be repeated.
Which UK businesses can apply for a sponsorship licence?
Any size of UK company, business or employer can apply to the Home Office for a sponsor licence if they meet the following eligibility criteria:
- The business is a genuine organisation that is operating lawfully in the UK.
- The business genuinely needs to recruit overseas workers to meet recruitment needs.
- The business has key personnel and HR systems in place to manage the sponsor licence.
Applying for a sponsorship licence
Applications for a sponsorship licence are online but they must be supported by the required paperwork being sent to the Home Office within five working days of submission of the online application. The nature of the supporting documents needed depends on the nature and size of your organisation. Once granted the sponsor licence lasts for four years. A renewal applicationmust be made if your business wants to remain a sponsoring employer.
The roadmap from sponsor licence to recruitment of skilled migrant workers
Securing a sponsor licence is the first step towards employing skilled migrant workers. The roadmap from sponsor licence to new recruit on a skilled worker visa or intra company transfer visa involves:
- Checking to see if the job the business is recruiting to fill is on the government shortage occupation list or has a standard occupation code (SOC). The list of occupations and ‘going rate for the job’ criteria are found in the immigration rules appendix skilled occupations.
- Draw up a job specification and job advert and recruit to fill the job.
- Complete the recruitment process and, if necessary, allocate the successful job applicant with a certificate of sponsorship. The certificate of sponsorship holds the necessary information to help the Home Office decide the visa application through a computerised reference number that enables the Home Office to access information about the job.
- Pay the immigration skills charge on behalf of the visa applicant. Every time your business sponsors a skilled migrant worker your business will need to pay the immigration skills charge. The amount payable depends on the size of the company. Payment has to be made when you assign a certificate of sponsorship to the sponsored worker.
- Once the successful job applicant has secured their skilled worker visa or intra company transfer visa you need to conduct the right to work check before they commence their employment.
- Comply with their reporting and recording duties under the sponsor licence on an ongoing basis. For example, report any changes of address made by the sponsored worker.
Sponsorship Licence lawyers say that the sponsor licence roadmap from first sponsor licence application to recruitment of a job applicant on a skilled worker visa or the transfer of an existing employee to the UK on an intra company transfer visa can seem straight forward but there are traps for the unwary. For example, the choice of key personnel or compliance with some of the more onerous and stricter sponsor licence reporting and recording duties on the Home Office sponsor management system. Some of the headache of travelling on the roadmap of sponsor licence acquisition, recruitment and retention of the licence and workers can be alleviated by the use of sponsor licence management services to take away your business having to deal with all the bureaucracy.
UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers