In anticipation of the start of the new Skilled Worker, Intra-Company Worker (ICT) and other new work routes, which will go live on 1 December 2020, the Home Office has published new comprehensive guidance for sponsors. The new guidance includes information on how EU, EEA and Swiss citizens coming to work in the UK from 1 January 2020 can be sponsored.
The new sponsor guidance, which follows the recent publication of the new Immigration Rules for workers, is broken down into five documents and amounts to 246 pages of material. Whilst much of the information has been carried over from the previous guidance, there is a significant amount of new information which sponsors will need to familiarise themselves with.
Although the new guidance covers a range of routes (set out below), we will focus here on the new Skilled Worker and ICT Worker routes.
The new sponsor guidance contains the following documents:
- Part 1: Apply for a licence (here);
- Part 2: Sponsor a worker – general information (here);
- Part 3: Sponsor duties and compliance (here);
- Sponsor a Skilled Worker (here);
- Sponsor an Intra-Company Worker (here).
Transitional arrangements for existing sponsor licence holders
Part 1 contains information for existing sponsor licence holders under Tiers 2 and 5. This confirms that existing licences, along with existing Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) allocations, will be automatically transferred to the new system from 1 December 2020 with the same expiry date as the current licence. Sponsors do not have to take any action in relation to the transfer.
Those with a licence that is due to expire within the next 90 days are advised to apply to renew it sooner rather than later (this should help to avoid a backlog).
Licences that have been revoked or made dormant will not be converted, and where a licence is suspended, it will only be converted if the suspension is lifted.
Re-naming of the routes
The various routes available for sponsorship have been renamed, and many now contain different requirements which are set out in the Immigration Rules.
The sponsor licence application process
The sponsor licence application process has not changed significantly, although the guidance confirms that the Home Office will now accept supporting documents via email, which is welcome news.
We would advise employers that may need to hire an EEA worker from 1 January 2021 to apply for a sponsor licence now to ensure that it is granted in time. Please contact us for advice on the process.
Sponsor duties and compliance
The Home Office has not changed its position that sponsorship is a ‘privilege’ and not a right. Sponsor licence holding organisations are subject to a number of duties, the majority of which remain unchanged, as follows:
- reporting duties;
- record-keeping duties;
- complying with UK immigration laws and other legislation;
- not behaving in a way that is not conducive to the public good.
Full details are contained in Part 3.
A sponsor that is deemed by the Home Office to have breached its duties risks compliance action which could include the suspension or even the revocation of the sponsor licence. If the licence is revoked, the organisation will no longer be able to sponsor EEA or non-EEA workers.
We strongly advise those with responsibility for the organisation’s sponsor licence to set aside some time to ensure that they familiarise themselves with the new guidance and check that the organisation is compliant.
Defined and undefined CoS
Restricted and unrestricted CoS will no longer exist from 1 December 2020.
Where a person is outside the UK and will apply for a visa, the sponsor will need to make an application to the Home Office for a ‘defined CoS’. The guidance says these will be granted in 24 hours in most cases. The sponsor will then assign the CoS for use in the visa application.
In all other cases, sponsors will assign ‘undefined CoS’ and will need to apply for these from the Home Office via an annual allocation process which can be topped up throughout the year.
Skilled Worker, ICT and other routes
Sponsors should carefully read the guidance, which explains the requirements that must be met in order to lawfully assign a CoS to workers under the various routes.
There is significant new information for both the Skilled Worker route and the ICT Worker route, especially in regards to the way in which the minimum salary requirement is calculated.
Welcome changes include the removal of the Resident Labour Market Test in relation to workers sponsored from 1 December 2020, the removal of the restrictions on shareholding and the removal of the cooling-off period in relation to those applying to the Skilled Worker route (some limited cooling-off period provisions remain under the ICT Worker route).
Updates and webinars
Over the next few weeks, we will be focusing in detail on different aspects of the new system and running a series of webinars, including with the Home Office.
If you work for an organisation that has a sponsor licence, or wishes to apply for one, and would like to receive our updates, you can subscribe here. If you would like to receive an invite to our webinars, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How we can help
If you require legal advice about a sponsor licence, or assistance with a sponsor licence application, please call our immigration specialists for an initial discussion or make an enquiry below.