Many UK businesses simply cannot source the staff that they need from the UK’s settled labour market, particularly following the end of free movement from the EU. Skilled Worker and Global Business Mobility visas allow foreign nationals to come to or stay in the UK to work in an eligible job with an approved employer who will act as their sponsor.
In order to employ someone who is not a settled worker, employers will usually need to obtain a Sponsor Licence from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) first. Settled workers are British or Irish citizens, EU, EEA and Swiss citizens (and their eligible family members) who have been granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme, and people with indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK.
To obtain a Sponsor Licence, your business will need to make an application to UKVI and provide assurance that:
- It is an active and trading UK-based employer;
- It is able to comply with employment and immigration law and good practice; and
- It will comply with a number of ongoing obligations, such as monitoring its migrant workers and reporting to UKVI.
Breach of those duties could result in the Sponsor Licence being withdrawn so that the business would no longer be able to employ any non-settled workers (unless those individuals hold a visa under another immigration route, such as a family visa).
Making a Sponsor Licence application can be a daunting process and applications are often rejected because employers have been unable to decipher the Home Office guidance or have failed to provide mandatory information or documents. Our Immigration Team regularly advise employers on all aspects of the Sponsor Licence application process and can take this time consuming process off your hands.
With a Sponsor Licence in place, employers may sponsor non-settled workers in a variety of roles.
The Home Office have a list of occupation codes which specify the roles into which you can sponsor migrant workers as not all roles are eligible for sponsorship. Whilst there is a large variety of roles into which you can recruit skilled workers, it is important to identify the correct code and to ensure the Certificate of Sponsorship reflects that code.
Generally speaking, to be eligible for sponsorship:
- the role must require skills to A-Level standard or equivalent qualifications/experience for a Skilled Worker visa and graduate level or above for a Global Mobility visa; and
- the minimum salary requirement must be met (which differs according to the role and visa route) but, other than in exceptional circumstances, must not be less than £25,600 per annum for Skilled Workers, or £42,400 for Senior or Specialists Workers on the Global Business Mobility route.
The government recognise that there are certain roles that desperately need to be filled in the UK. These roles are listed on the “Shortage Occupation List” and benefit from relaxed eligibility criteria for sponsored work visa applications.
We can help your business to assess which visa route is most appropriate, whether the roles into which you want to recruit non-settled workers meet the eligibility criteria, as well as help you to identify the appropriate occupation code for the roles.
CERTIFICATES OF SPONSORSHIP
Once your business has its Sponsor Licence in place, before an individual can apply for their visa to work for your business, you will need to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to them. The CoS is an electronic document that the sponsoring employer issues to the worker to enable them to apply for a visa. The CoS includes information such as the migrant's personal information, work address(es) in the UK, job description, hours, salary, and start and end date of employment.
We can guide you through the process of applying for and assigning a CoS to your prospective recruit and also support your workers with their visa applications.
All UK employers also have a duty to prevent illegal working and must carry out, and retain evidence of, right to work checks on all employees regardless of nationality. However, businesses that hold a Sponsor Licence have a number of additional monitoring and reporting duties to the Home Office.
Failure to comply with these duties can ultimately result in the Sponsor Licence being revoked, and there is a cooling off period that applies before an employer is permitted to apply for another Licence.
We therefore provide all of our business immigration clients with comprehensive guidance on their obligations as Licenced Sponsors.
LEVEL 1 USER SERVICE
All businesses that hold a Sponsor Licence must appoint key personnel. One of those roles is the Level 1 User who is responsible for the day-to-day management of your Licence.
Our experienced business immigration practitioners can be registered as Level 1 Users on your Sponsor Licence, meaning we will assist with the administrative tasks that are required when sponsoring migrant workers.
Appointing us will give you piece of mind that there will be an expert on hand to assist you in meeting your sponsor duties, to take some pressure off your in-house personnel.
RIGHT TO WORK CHECKS AND AUDITS
To comply with their duties to prevent illegal working, employers in the UK should check all prospective employees’ entitlement to work in the UK before they start work. There are also strict obligations to carry out repeat checks on any employees who have a limited right to remain in the UK. There are specific rules on exactly what documents must be checked and in what form.
Employers who do not carry out right to work checks and who are found to be employing illegal workers face fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker. There are also potential criminal sanctions, not to mention the damage it could do to the reputation of your business and revocation of your Sponsor Licence if your business holds one.
We offer a bespoke audit service to assess whether your business is meeting its obligations, and we will identify any problem areas in your current systems, as well as rectifying these problems, to mitigate the risk of your business facing any criminal or civil penalties.
As a Sponsor Licence holder, if your business is subject to an inspection or audit by UKVI, we can also assist your business with preparing for any planned inspections, and responding to information requests from the Home Office.