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About OTS solicitors
OTS Solicitors is an internationally recognised law firm, based in the City of London. We have a wide range of expertise to support business and private clients in all areas of law.
We understand that in order for your business to succeed in today’s competitive markets, you will require highly skilled workers and therefore access to the best possible candidates from around the world is crucial for your business. Our corporate immigration solicitors assist businesses to meet the requirements for Sponsorship Licences and ensure employers hire Tier 2 highly skilled migrant workers in compliance with the UK Immigration Rules.
We are here to help you with all types of Sponsorship Licence matters whether it is:
Steps to hire a non-EEA national as a Tier 2 (General) skilled migrant worker under the UK Points Based System
If you are an employer in the UK who wishes to employ non-EEA nationals under the Points Based System, then you must hold a Sponsorship Licence which is usually valid for four years. A Sponsorship Licence can be considered to be an agreement between your business and the Home Office to confirm that you will comply with the Sponsor duties in return for providing you with permission to employ Tier 2 (General) highly skilled migrants under the UK Points Based System.
The Sponsorship Licence is issued by the Home Office and once the Sponsorship Licence expires after four years, the employer must renew the Licence if the company intends to continue employing Tier 2 (General) migrants. Please click here for our page on Sponsorship Licence Renewals for a detailed discussion on renewing a Sponsorship Licence.
There are two types of licences that employers in the UK can obtain:
a licence to hire skilled long-term workers under the Tier 2 (General) visa category; or
a licence to hire skilled temporary workers for those under the Tier 5 visa category of the Points Based System.
How do employers apply?
The application for a Sponsorship Licence must be submitted online via the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). The Home Office therefore requires businesses to appoint one or more members of their existing staff to the following sponsorship management roles:
Level 1 user (responsible for the day to day management of the licence)
Employers must further demonstrate that:
The business is a genuine organisation trading lawfully in the UK
The Human Resources department is competent, organised and knowledgeable on the business’ duties and responsibilities as the Sponsor of Tier 2 (General) highly skilled migrant workers
Any key staff members appointed to handle and maintain the Licence are of good character, organised and reliable
The Home Office publishes a guide referred to as the Shortage Occupation list which provides a list of all roles that employers struggle to fill with UK settled workers. If the required role by your business is not on the Home Office Shortage Occupation list, then you will need to advertise the position in the UK before making enquiries overseas which is referred to as the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT).
If your application is approved, you will receive a sponsorship rating. An ‘A’ rating means you can begin employing Tier 2 skilled migrants from overseas and your business will be added to the list of registered sponsors. If you fail to meet the sponsorship obligations and duties imposed on you as a Sponsorship Licence holder, your rating can be downgraded and eventually revoked or suspended if you fail to take the necessary steps to meet your duties. Please click here for detailed guidance on the revocation of Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence.
It is important to note that as an employer, you are responsible for monitoring all Tier 2 (General) skilled migrant workers’ immigration statuses, and you must report any issues or changes to the Home Office immediately. Please click here for further information on sponsor duties and compliance requirements.
Tier 2 migrant visas under the UK Points Based System
The Tier 2 visa category is part of the UK’s Points Based System allowing highly skilled workers from around the world to be sponsored by UK employers to secure Employment in the UK. The most common types of visas within the Tier 2 Points Based System category include:
Tier 2 (General) visa
– this category relates to the Skilled Worker and is suitable for people that can offer a skill in the UK that is needed and which will fill a gap in the labour force
Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) visa
– this category applies to non-EEA nationals who transfer to the UK branch of their company
Sports Person visa
– this category applies to professional coaches and athletes
Minister of Religion visa
– this category is suitable to you if you are offered a job within a faith community in the UK
In order to successfully obtain a grant of leave as a Tier 2 (General) skilled migrant, the job must first meet the following requirements:
The employer must assign a Certificate of Sponsorship to you, and in order to do so your employer must have a Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence as discussed above
The prospective Tier 2 (General) migrant holder must satisfy the required level of skill for the role.
The UK employer must offer the minimum remuneration (appropriate salary) which is dependent on the role to be filled.
The prospective Tier 2 (General) migrant holder must satisfy the maintenance requirement.
If you are successfully granted a Tier 2 (General) migrant visa, you have leave to enter/remain in the UK for three years following which you may be eligible to apply for an extension. Once a non-EEA skilled worker has been residing in the UK for a continuous period of five years, they may be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
Immigration law is constantly changing and becoming increasingly complex and at times the changes may seem ambiguous. The recent updates impose certain changes for employers to consider when sponsoring Tier 2 (General) skilled migrant workers from 6th April 2016, including:
Most Tier 2 visa immigrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) must be earning £35,000 or more to qualify for UK Indefinite Leave to Remain
Nurses and four technology jobs (product manager, data scientist, senior developer and cyber security specialist) have been added to the s Shortage Occupation List(November 2015)
From the 24th November 2016, the following requirements have been implemented:
Increasing the Tier 2 (General) salary threshold for experienced workers to £25,000, with some exemptions
Increasing the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) salary threshold for short term staff to £30,000
Reducing the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) graduate trainee salary threshold to £23,000 and increasing the number of places to 20 per company per year
If you are an employer who holds a Tier 2 sponsorship licence or you are intending to apply for a Sponsorship Licence, you must remain well informed of the regular changes made to the Immigration Rules and other relevant legislation. Failure to adhere to the changes in Immigration law will render any application unsuccessful as it is the employer’s obligation to ensure that they are able to satisfy the relevant requirements.
How we can assist
We have successfully established a Sponsorship Licence and Compliance Team who are committed to providing your business with guidance every step of the way. Our solicitors from the business immigration team led by Mr Paul Gulbenkian and Ms Teni Shahiean will ensure that your immigration application is completed successfully, and that you remain compliant with the requirement for this visa category throughout your stay in the UK.
Our corporate immigration solicitors can advise you and/or your business associates on:
Guidance on complying with the illegal workers policies and duties as a Sponsor
An array of applications under the PBS including Tier 2 (General) visa
Applications for Temporary workers
Global Migration planning
Refusals and JR
Please contact our offices on 0203 959 9123 for detailed advice catered to you and your needs whether you are multinational company or an individual hoping to secure your future in the UK.
Tier 2 Work Permit Visa and Sponsorship Licence subsections
Sponsorship Licence Application
If you are UK company wishing to recruit talent from outside the EEA, you will require a Sponsorship Licence from UK Visas and Immigration. Our Immigration solicitors have years of experience advising employers on how to obtain and maintain an A rated Sponsorship Licence and are regarded as one of the best Immigration legal teams in London.
Our Immigration solicitors, is led by Teni Shahiean, a highly regarded Immigration and Employment solicitor who has been recognised in the Legal 500 and by the Law Society of England and Wales for her expertise in Immigration law. Teni and her team will listen to your recruitment requirements and provide you with full support when collating the required documentation and completing the application form. We will also use our contacts at UK Visas and Immigration to ensure any questions or concerns they may have about your application are answered efficiently and effectively.
Eligibility criteria for applying for a UK Sponsor Licence
A potential sponsor must:
- be genuine and operating or trading lawfully in the UK
- be based in the UK
- hold the appropriate planning permission or Local Planning Authority consent for the type of business operated at the trading address
- be 'honest, dependable and reliable'
- not represent a threat to Immigration control, and
- be willing and able to comply with the sponsor duties and responsibilities.
If a sponsor is a food business, it must hold appropriate registration with, or approval of a relevant food authority.
There is a specific sponsor applications team at UK Visas and Immigration which considers applications for sponsorship.
The sponsor must be able to meet the criteria of each specific category or tier for which it is seeking the licence.
UK Visas and Immigration takes a rigorous approach when investigating whether or not the applicant is willing and able to comply with his or her sponsor duties. Applicant organisations are being asked more detailed questions about, and for documents evidencing, various aspects of their corporate structures/ownership or staff hierarchies, the nature of their business, and so on. Our specialist Immigration team will advise you on proving your competence in this requirement to UK Visas and Immigration officials, so your application is approved without delay.
The suitability assessment
Once the UK Visas and Immigration is happy as to a potential sponsor's eligibility, it will then look to whether or not it is suitable to receive a licence. UK Visas and Immigration will consider the applicant organisation under the four broad suitability categories:
- if it has effective human resources systems to be able to fulfil its sponsor duties
- if it or any of its associated persons have:
- been given a civil penalty for employing an illegal worker
- been given a civil penalty within the last five years under any of the legislative provisions listed in Appendix C other than in relation to illegal working
- have any unspent convictions for a relevant offence or any of the offences listed in Annex 7of the Points-Based System Sponsor Guidance (SG)
- if the organisation has a previous record of non-compliance or poor compliance with the duties of sponsorship or is employing any migrants (whether sponsored or not) who are in breach of their conditions of leave
- if it is able to offer 'genuine Employment' which meets the Tier 2 (General) criteria on skill level and appropriate rate—this is explicitly stated in the Introduction to the SG to apply only to applications for licences in the Tier 2 (General) category, but elsewhere in the same document it is clear that the same considerations will apply to whichever Tier 2 category is being applied under
There are additional, potentially much wider criteria, in particular the requirements of honesty and dependability, and compliance with the law in other spheres than Immigration.
The suitability assessment may include a visit from UK Visa and Immigration Officials. Your solicitor, who will manage your case from beginning to end, will help you prepare for the visit and be present when the officials are visiting the premises, allowing you to be confident that you are fully prepared and supported.
Why choose OTS Solicitors
Our Immigration lawyers want to celebrate your commercial success. By getting to know and developing an understanding of your business, we will ensure your application for a Sponsorship Licence is approved. By instructing us, you will have confidence that you understand both the process and the obligations and responsibilities that a UK Employer Sponsorship Licence entails.
To discuss applying for a UK Employer Sponsorship Licence or if you have any questions in relation to recruiting skilled workers from outside the EEA, please feel free to contact our UK Immigration team on 0207 936 9960. We will gladly assist you to obtain the best outcome for your matter.
Employers and Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence Management Service
Employers who wish to hire talent from outside the EEA need to acquire a Sponsor Licence. The application process and the ongoing responsibilities that come with having a Sponsor Licence can be daunting; however, you can rely on our immigration solicitors to make obtaining and maintaining a licence simple, fast and stress-free.
Getting to know your business
Our immigration lawyers partner with businesses who engage us to manage their Sponsor Licence application and ongoing compliance matters. We take the trouble to find out about your business, your commercial ambitions and how you want to structure your recruitment processes over the next two to five years. This puts us in a position to advise you on:
Whether the positions you need to fill are on the Shortage Occupation List. If they are not, you will not have to advertise the position within the UK before recruiting from abroad.
Applying for your Sponsor Licence.
Your existing HR policies and procedures and steps that need to be implemented to ensure you can meet your sponsor obligations.
Assisting successful applicants for the position on obtaining their Tier 2 work visa.
How to maintain full compliance with Home Office regulations and maintain your A-rating.
Why you need an experienced immigration solicitor
The Home Office has consistently toughened up rules and regulations as they apply to Sponsor Licences over the past few years. Not only do organisations have to meet strict criteria to be granted a Sponsor Licence, they must have strong HR systems in place to meet compliance requirements and be prepared for Home Office audits, which are often unannounced.
Our immigration lawyers are led by Teni Shahiean, who has been recognised in the Legal 500 and by the Law Society of England and Wales for her in-depth knowledge of both employmentand immigration law. Teni has a degree in both business and law, and she and her team regularly assist clients by conducting mock audits. By checking HR policies, and your Sponsor Licence Management procedures, our immigration lawyers can analyse the strengths and weaknesses of your current systems, and put in place a strategic plan to ensure they are fully up-to-date and can cope with Home Office compliance requirements.
Under the Immigration Act 2016, employers now face harsh penalties if caught employing illegal workers. Prior to the introduction of the new Act, employers were liable to criminal prosecution for employing an illegal worker only if they had actual knowledge of having done so. The 2016 Act extends the existing criminal offence to also cover the situation where an employer has “reasonable cause to believe” that someone is an illegal worker. The Act also increases the maximum prison sentence for either offence from two to five years.
The 2016 Act also gives the Home Office the power to shut down businesses for up to 48 hours if there is evidence of an organisation employing illegal workers and evading sanctions. If the employer can prove they have conducted the right to work checks, the closure notice may be withdrawn. However, if right to work checks have not been carried out, the business may be placed under special compliance requirements, as directed by a Court. This can include continued closure for a period, followed by re-opening subject to compliance inspections and the requirement to conduct right to work checks.
Our team of immigration lawyers will ensure you are up-to-date with changes in the law and understand how and when to check employees’ immigration status. By engaging us to advise you on your Sponsor Licence Management, you can be confident that your business is fully compliant with UK immigration law.
Let us help you grow your business
Our immigration lawyers are experts in their field. We take away the time-commitment and stress of keeping up to date with ever-changing immigration regulations and Home Office policies, by ensuring that relevant staff in your organisation understand what is required to maintain an A-rating on a Sponsor Licence.
We provide fast, proactive, friendly service to organisations ranging from small- operators to SMEs to large, multi-national corporations. We invest heavily in legal research materials; so our clients are confident that we know about forthcoming regulation changes well in advance.
If your Sponsor Licence has been downgraded, we will help you develop a plan to recover your A- rating as soon as possible.
To find out more about our Sponsor Licence Management, please feel free to contact our UK immigration solicitors on 0207 936 9960. We are here to help ensure you are in full compliance with your Sponsor Licence obligations.
Sponsorship Licence Audit and Compliance Service
Applying for and even receiving your UK Sponsorship Licence is only part of the work required by the Home Office for employers who wish to recruit talent from outside the EEA. Home Office officials may visit your premises unannounced, to audit your policies and procedures and ensure you are complying with your sponsorship responsibilities.
Our immigration solicitors are a fast-acting, dynamic team. When it comes to assisting employers with their compliance obligations, we are proactive; always ensuring that your policies and procedures are compliant with the latest changes in immigration law.
Our immigration lawyers are led by Teni Shahiean, who has been recognised in the Legal 500 and by the Law Society of England and Wales for her in-depth knowledge of both employmentand immigration law. Teni has a degree in both business and law, and has an in-depth understanding of the commercial requirements of organisations who need to employ talent from outside the EEA. She has appeared on Sky1, the BBC Victoria Derbyshire program and Share Radio, and is regularly sought to provide opinions on immigration law from British and international journalists.
How we assist with Home Office audits
The recent Byron Hamburgers immigration raid, where workers were called in to what they thought was a health and safety meeting, and instead were met with Home Office officials who deported the workers who were in the country illegally, highlights the need for robust compliance procedures. The hamburger business suffered weeks of bad publicity following the incident, and had to temporarily close a branch in London due to protests about the alleged ‘sting’ on its employees.
Our immigration solicitors will ensure that your policies and procedures are always up-to-date. In the past, visits from the Home Office on employers holding a Sponsor Licence were pre-announced, now officials are likely to descend on businesses without notice. They will assess your HR systems/ processes, record keeping activities, Sponsor Management System (SMS) updates and files for migrant employees. If officials are not happy with the level of compliance, they can issue fines and downgrade, or even revoke your Sponsor Licence.
The immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors can carry out a mock audit of your policies and procedures. We will then provide a report on the strength and weaknesses of your systems and assist you with co-ordinating a strategy to ensure your organisation becomes and remains in full compliance with sponsor obligations.
The Home Office review
If a visit to your premises does occur, the Home Office official will look at five key areas of compliance:
- Monitoring immigration status and preventing illegal working
- Maintaining migrant workers’ contact details
- Record keeping
- Migrant tracking and monitoring
- Recruitment practices and professional accreditations
They will then rate your HR policies and procedures from one to three (a score of one being the best, three the worst). To maintain an A-rating, you will need to receive a one in all these areas.
Our immigration solicitors will do our best to be present at a Home Office audit (if prior notice is given) and will answer any questions the official has on your behalf. By engaging us to assist you with audit and compliance matters, you can be confident that you will receive and keep your A-rating.
Ensuring full compliance with Home Office obligations is challenging for any employer. Immigration rules are constantly changing. You can trust our immigration lawyers to not only keep you up-to-date with regulatory changes, but to check your systems and confirm that you will pass an inspection if one occurs.
What if you fail an audit?
If your processes and procedures do not meet Home Office expectations, Teni and her team are here to help.
Prior to the introduction of the Immigration Act 2016, employers were liable to criminal prosecution for employing an illegal worker only if they had actual knowledge of having done so. The 2016 Act extends the existing criminal offence to also cover the situation where an employer has “reasonable cause to believe” that someone is an illegal worker. The Act also increases the maximum prison sentence for either offence from two to five years.
The 2016 Act also gives the Home Office the power to shut down businesses for up to 48 hours if there is evidence of employers flouting the law by employing illegal workers and evading sanctions. If the employer can prove they have conducted the right to work checks, the closure notice may be withdrawn. However, if right to work checks have not been carried out, the business may be placed under special compliance requirements, as directed by a Court. This can include continued closure for a period, followed by re-opening subject to compliance inspections and the requirement to conduct right to work checks.
Don’t fall victim to the harsh new sanctions. Engage us today to assist you with all your Sponsor Licence audit and compliance matters.
To find out more about our Sponsor Licence Management Service, please feel free to contact our UK immigration solicitors on 0207 936 9960. We are here to help ensure you are in full compliance with your Sponsor Licence obligations.
For a more detailed discussion regarding your case, or to book an appointment with a member of our business immigration team, please call us now on 0203 959 9123