On 18 May 2020, The Immigration and Social Security Co-Ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons.
This new statute will end free movement and make EEA nationals and Swiss nationals subject to immigration control as of 1 January 2021. The Government remains committed to completing the legislative requirements to leave the EU by the end of the year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
In February, the Government published a Policy Statement outlining its plans for a new points based immigration system that is intended to be implemented on 1 January 2021. This new system will apply to both EU and non-EU citizens.
What does this mean for UK businesses?
Any business within the UK that relies on migrant employees, including EU nationals, and who will continue to do so as of 1 January 2021 will need to obtain a sponsor licence.
Once a sponsor licence has been obtained, UK businesses will be able to sponsor migrant workers, provided they meet the minimum skill level set by the Home Office. The Policy Statement confirmed that this skill level is to be set at A-level or above and businesses will not be required to complete the Resident Labour Market Test.
If you are a UK business and you do not currently have a sponsor licence, you should consider applying for a sponsor licence now, in anticipation of the new rules post 1 January 2021.
What is a sponsor licence?
A sponsor licence is permission from the UK Government to enable you to hire skilled overseas workers. A sponsor licence is valid for four years and you will be require to renew the licence thereafter.
How do I apply for a sponsor licence?
The company must apply to the Home Office using an online application form and supply specified documents to prove that it is suitable and eligible to be awarded a sponsor licence.
The company will also be required to demonstrate that:
- The organisation is genuine and has a lawful trading presence in the UK;
- It has effective HR and recruitment systems and practices in place;
- The company offers genuine employment that meets the Tier 2 skill level and appropriate rates of pay; and
- The appointed key personnel are honest, dependable and reliable.
Once the application is submitted, The Home Office may carry out a compliance visit at the companies’ premises, to ensure that the information provided with the application was current and to ensure that all HR systems are in place to meet the sponsor licence requirements.
If the sponsor licence is granted, the Home Office can also visit and conduct checks throughout the validity of the licence, to ensure that the sponsor duties are being complied with. They can visit unannounced and conduct checks at any physical addresses where the sponsored employees would be working.
How long does the application process take?
Once a sponsor licence application has been submitted to the Home Office, a decision can take up to 8 weeks to be received.
Please note that due to COVID-19, further delays may occur, especially if the Home Office intends to carry out a compliance visit.
Gherson has extensive experience with all aspects of the sponsor licence application process and the duties it places on sponsors. We can also audit your business and advise on your HR systems and policies to ensure that they are compliant with the Home Office requirements. If you have any questions or queries relating to the above, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.
Consultant and trainee solicitor in our Corporate Team