Employing Skilled Workers from Overseas
Since the beginning of this year, employers now usually require a sponsor licence before they can employ skilled workers from outside the UK. Previously employers only needed a licence to employ non-EEA nationals however, once freedom of movement ended this requirement was extended to cover employees within the European Economic Area (EEA). Employers who do not have a sponsorship licence will therefore be unable to hire new EEA and non-EEA migrant workers or extend visas for employees who now require sponsorship.
Despite the Covid pandemic, the introduction of the new immigration system still went ahead as planned at the start of 2021. As time has passed, the new immigration system has been the source of some consternation on the basis that it is now being seen as overly prohibitive, particularly in those sectors who normally needed foreign labour and who have been hit badly by the effects of various lockdowns and a return home of many former employees. Whilst there are calls for change, as yet a sponsor licence remains a requirement for most skilled employment.
Applying for a Sponsor Licence
When it comes to applying for a Sponsor Licence, organisations must meet both eligibility and suitability criteria for sponsors. It is the suitability criteria which determine whether UKVI grant or refuse a sponsor licence application and to assess suitability criteria, UKVI look at whether:
- The organisation has human resource and recruitment systems in place to meet, or continue to meet, its sponsor duties. UKVI may judge this by conducting a compliance visit at the organisation either before or after the licence is granted.
- The sponsor duties are being complied with. This includes checks at any physical addresses where the organisation’s sponsored employees would carry out their employment duties. If access to a third party’s site is deemed necessary (either at application stage or later as part of compliance checks), UKVI would need to see evidence of arrangements between the sponsor organisation and the third party that would ensure full cooperation by the third party with UKVI checks.
- The organisation can offer a genuine vacancy which meets the criteria of the category it is applying to be licensed for. This may mean that if the organisation’s business involves operating no (or little) physical office space in the UK (a virtual business model), UKVI will consider the type of work a sponsored worker will be doing and where the worker will be carrying out their employment duties.
- The organisation or any of its directors have an unspent criminal conviction for a relevant immigration related offence.
- There is any evidence of previous non-compliance by the organisation.
Broken down further, these criteria straddle 5 key areas of compliance which organisations will expect to be able to demonstrate as part of any sponsor licence application:
- Monitoring Immigration Status and Preventing Illegal Employment
- Maintaining Migrant Contact Details
- Record keeping and recruitment practices
- Migrant tracking and monitoring
- Adherence to general sponsor duties including the assignment of Certificates of Sponsorship
There are quite of lot “systems” that a sponsor is required to have in place and obviously, where there is cross over with employment law and practice, the systems need to complement and reflect each other. Ultimately however, this exercise only needs to be completed once and an employer will have all of the relevant procedures, policies and paperwork in place for use going forward.
How we can help
We can provide guidance and advice in relation to a sponsor’s duties. Furthermore, we can work with you to ensure immigration processes and procedures are sufficiently robust and licence holders are aware of the compliance duties and adhering to them, and that their teams are duly trained and well equipped to meet the requirements. Please feel free to contact us to discuss your situation and how we can assist.