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Government Urging Employers to Get A Sponsor Licence in The Wake of Brexit To Prepare for New Immigration System

With autumn on the horizon in the UK, businesses across the country are still trying to make sense of the implications of Brexit on their operations. With no sign of a trade deal with the EU as yet, there is no clarity on the trade tariffs and customs arrangements we can expect from January 2021. When it comes to immigration, however, it is clear that no matter what happens around the negotiating table, free movement is ending at midnight on 31st December 2020. For some UK based businesses reliant on hiring skills and labour from overseas, this will have a profound impact.

As EU nationals will need to apply for a work visa in the same way as citizens of all other countries, any business wishing to recruit from overseas will need to apply for a sponsor license. For many, this will be a significant change in how they operate. It will add to the cost and time incurred when recruiting a foreign worker and will necessitate new systems and processes to remain in adherence to the legal duties of sponsor license holders.

Government Urging Employers to Secure A Sponsor License As Soon As Possible

In recent weeks, more details have emerged of the new proposed immigration system, including the revised points-based system (PBS) which will be used by all international workers coming to the UK, even those in the EU.

As the government website states, “If you’re not already a licensed sponsor and you think you’ll want to sponsor migrants through the skilled worker route from January 2021, you should apply now ”. They also recommend signing up to their email updates on the new points-based immigration system to ensure you are kept up to date as the details of the final policy are released.

There is still sufficient time for businesses across the UK to apply for and secure a sponsor license to recruit international workers. The time from the submission of your application to receiving a decision is typically around eight weeks, however, in practice, the overall time you will need to recruit under this immigration is longer as you will need to ensure your business has the necessary systems and processes in place. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you engage the services of immigration Solicitors who will be able to quickly get your business up to speed and prepare your application for you. They will also ensure that if you receive a visit from the Home Office as part of the application process, to ensure your processes and systems are ready, you will be prepared and able to secure a positive decision without any unnecessary delay.

It is also important that you understand the eligibility rules which will apply from 2021. While the government has made it clear that the migration of lower-skilled workers to the UK will cease when free movement ends, it has lowered both the qualification and salary threshold which need to be met.

Will the New 2021 ‘Skilled Worker’ Immigration Route Work for My Business?

To make this decision, you will need to look at three key factors:

  1. Does the Skilled Worker route allow me to recruit at the skill and pay level required for my business?

Any job offered under the skilled worker route must meet a minimum skill level of RQF3 or above. This is equivalent to a UK A-level. Under the existing pre-2021 immigration system, prospective workers are required to meet RQF 6, which is equivalent to degree level. This is significant because while the government is stopping low skilled migration, they are lowering the benchmark on the level of skills needed. You will also need to pay a salary of £25,600 or the going rate for the job being offered, whichever is higher. This has been lowered for 2021 from £30,000. Workers will also need to prove that they meet the English language requirement. This is typically set at CEFR level B1 for those with skills equivalent to A-levels, or CEFR level B2 at degree level.

  1. Can my business absorb the cost of using the Skilled Worker route?

There are additional costs which your business should be aware of before applying for a sponsor license. For every worker you recruit, you will need to pay an immigration skills charge of £1,000 per year (for medium or large sponsors). You will also need to pay £199 for every Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) that your business issues. In turn, workers will also need to pay £400 per year towards the immigration healthcare surcharge, to allow them to use the NHS. Some businesses offer to pay this on behalf of their international staff.

  1. Is my business able to comply with the duties of a Skilled Worker sponsor license holder?

It is important that all businesses considering using the Skilled Worker system are aware of their obligations in order to retain their license. Your business will need to nominate ‘key users’ who are responsible for updating the Home Office Sponsorship Management System (SMS). At all times, you will be expected to keep to the terms of your sponsor license (i.e. the vacancies must be genuine, of the correct skills level, and you must pay the required amount). Up to date records of international workers need to be kept, and certain events need to be reported to the Home Office (e.g. if you no longer sponsor a worker, or if they did not turn up to work on their first day). The sponsor license duties have been made less onerous with the proposed 2021 immigration policy changes, as there will be no cap on overseas workers and there will be no need to carry out a Resident Labour Market Test to prove that no settled worker can do the job on offer.

Final Words

While the government is recommending that businesses apply for a sponsor license in readiness for 2021, it essential that before doing so, you understand the implications. The new Skilled Worker route won’t be suitable for all businesses, but due to the reduction in the salary and skills requirements, it will provide a way for many companies who have been solely reliant on workers from the EU until now to secure the skills they need. For expert assistance with your sponsor license application and other immigration matter, speak to one of our experienced London immigration lawyers.

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