Every year is a busy one in immigration terms and 2022 was no different. We’ve been reflecting on some of the key changes that took place, affecting sponsors and workers.
Updated guidance for sponsors
On 9 November 2022, the Home Office updated the sponsor guidance for workers and temporary workers. The updates were made to Workers and Temporary Workers: sponsor a Skilled Worker, and Workers and Temporary Workers: guidance for sponsors part 2: sponsor a worker.
The updates provided much-needed clarification on worker start dates. This included confirmation that a sponsor does not need to report via the Sponsor Management System (SMS) if a worker has been granted permission and commenced work prior to the start date on the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). It also afforded greater flexibility in allowing sponsors to continue sponsoring workers with a delayed start date; provided the sponsor makes a report via the SMS and a ‘valid reason’ for the delay is accepted. We covered the updates regarding start dates in detail here.
Payment of workers
The guidance now confirms that payments to sponsored workers must be made into their own bank account – this can be in the UK or overseas. Workers cannot be paid in cash; a consequence of doing so may be revocation of the sponsor licence. Pre-paid cards such as FOREX are allowed but evidence must be available that the payment was received onto the worker’s card. Payments by cheque are also permitted provided it is paid into the worker’s own account.
Defined CoS requirements
The guidance now requires that when applying for a defined CoS the sponsor must, in the ‘summary of job description box’, state the number of hours a week the skilled worker will be working. If the working hours will vary, sponsors must provide details of the working pattern. Sponsors may also state that the number of hours is ‘to be confirmed’, upon which the confirmed hours can be provided when assigning the CoS.
We would hope to see the SMS system updated to include a mandatory field for this, to ensure sponsors do not fail to provide this information. It is yet to be seen whether the Home Office will refuse defined CoS applications which are missing this information, or whether they may get in touch to request the information regarding working hours.
Temporary salary reduction for ill-health
The guidance has clarified that where a worker has a temporary reduction in salary due to individual health reasons which coincides with a reduction of hours or a phased return to work, the sponsor does not need to cease sponsorship provided:
- the salary does not fall below any hourly rate requirement which applied when the worker obtained their most recent grant of permission, and
- it is supported by an occupational health assessment.
The sponsor is required to provide a notification of the reduction of salary via the SMS system.
Sponsors are usually required to stop sponsoring a worker and make a report via the SMS within 10 working days if a worker has been absent without pay for over four weeks in total in any calendar year, unless an exception applies.
The guidance has been updated to allow a sponsor to continue sponsoring a worker if there are compelling or exceptional circumstances as to why they should not stop sponsoring a worker who has been absent without pay for over four weeks. The sponsor would need to report this via the SMS. Sponsors must exercise caution in such cases, as UKVI may still cancel the worker’s permission if they are not satisfied by the reason provided.
Increase of the going rate
The guidance has been amended to confirm that, where the going rate for an occupation is increased, it does not affect skilled workers who are already being sponsored for the duration of their permission. The change to the going rate will only affect new applications for entry clearance or permission to stay, for new or existing workers.
Sponsors should also bear in mind that certain occupations have transitional arrangements for going rates.
Right to work checks are overhauled
The Home Office introduced some flexibility on conducting right to work checks following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. This allowed employers to conduct right to work checks remotely via video call. This flexibility came to an end on 30 September 2022, meaning from 1 October 2022, employers must conduct checks in one of the following ways:
- a manual check using original documents;
- the Home Office online checking service; or
- an Identification Document Validation Technology (IDVT) identity check.
The head of our immigration team, Nichola Carter, discusses this here.
Police registration is no more
On 5 August 2022, the Government made the announcement that the Police Registration Scheme was to come to an end with immediate effect. The Police Registration Scheme required that nationals of certain countries were required to register with the police and update their registration should their personal details change. The system was incredibly outdated, and this was a welcome announcement. We discussed this further here.
The new Scale-up route went live on 22 August 2022. This route aims to make it “quicker and easier for fast-growing businesses to bring in highly skilled individuals” to the UK (PM Rishi Sunak as former Chancellor). The Scale-up route is yet to see significant uptake; we considered the pros and cons here.
How we can help
Our immigration team specialise in assisting organisations with sponsor licences and work visa applications.
It is essential for sponsors to remain up to date with any changes to the sponsor guidance. Failure to keep on top of sponsor duties can result in compliance action being taken against an organisation. We provide regular training and compliance reviews to ensure sponsors remain compliant.
If you have any questions, we provide advice on a no-obligation basis. Please contact us or complete our enquiry form below.