Insights 11.11.19 Author: Andreja Okamgba

Preparing for the post-Brexit new immigration system – should you get a Sponsor Licence?

Insights 11.11.2019 Author: Andreja Okamgba
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Andreja Okamgba, HR Consultant at Carter Backer Winter (CBW), looks at the role of employers in the new immigration system to be introduced after the Brexit transition period, from 2021. Employers with specific labour requirements may benefit from applying for a Sponsor Licence now, if this is not in place already.

Post-Brexit, the UK Government is proposing to implement a new immigration system which will resemble the Australian points-based system. One might ask; doesn’t the UK already have such a system in place? The UK Immigration Rules do in fact already include something that is known as the points based system (PBS), but it is points-based in name only, and in reality it is an employer-driven system where skilled workers are chosen and sponsored by employers. A real points-based system does not rely on employers to identify the workers they want, but instead assesses the personal characteristics of individuals such as their education, age, language skills and work experience and only admits the highest scoring applicants regardless of the job offer.

Employer-driven system

Currently, under the UK’s PBS, employers must advertise the roles according to the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) rules, ensure that the job is classified at a required skills level and pay the required salary level. Beyond that employers are free to recruit whoever they feel is best for the job. In order to employ a candidate who requires a visa, they need to sponsor the visa application which requires the employer to hold a Sponsor Licence.

Sponsor Licence

To participate in the current immigration system, employers need to hold a Sponsor Licence with the Home Office. Licenced Sponsors are a vital part of the system and without the licence employers cannot sponsor those who require a visa to work in the UK. The application for the Licence is complex with several original documents having to be submitted in addition to the online application. Applications cost £536 for small companies and charities and £1,476 for large companies. Once granted, it is valid for 4 years provided that the employer adheres to strict document keeping and reporting duties.

Sponsoring overseas workers has recently been made more burdensome and expensive with the introduction of the Immigration Skills Charge of £1,000 per year (£364 for small companies and charities) which applies to each sponsored hire. Separately, a Certificate of Sponsorship which is used to sponsor each individual migrant costs £199. In addition, in most cases, the migrant also needs to pay the Health Surcharge, currently £400 per year, payable in advance for the entire duration of the visa.

Points-based system (PBS)

A genuine PBS, which is what is meant when referring to the Australian PBS, does not rely on employers nearly as much as the current UK system. It is instead, a very Government driven system where immigration decisions are based on personal characteristics of the applicants and their ability to benefit the local labour market, regardless of the job offer.

After Brexit

There is still space for employers to participate in a genuine PBS, and the new system may be designed to prioritise those applicants with a job offer. We think it is very likely that the UK’s new immigration system will still allow employers to play a significant role. Currently, there are over 30,000 licence sponsors in the UK and it would be unthinkable that they would lose all say in the immigration system, although it is expected that a large part of the new system will operate independently from the employers.

It is expected that the new immigration system will still include the employers (we are not sure to what extent) and holding a Sponsor Licence will most likely be beneficial. Until we have more clarity, employers who are particularly concerned about their ability to recruit the required workforce after Brexit are advised to consider applying for the Sponsor Licence now, before the queue of applications becomes unmanageable for the Home Office to deal with in acceptable timeframes. Having a Sponsor Licence with a 4 years’ validity in place will provide you with a safety net and bridge into the new immigration system, and renewal decision can be based on the reality of the new system. In any case, the renewal process will be much easier than a brand-new application.

How can we help?

CBW’s team are able to advise on Sponsor Licence applications, help you with the preparations, gathering the required documents and acting as a Representative on your Licence to take care of the administrative aspects. We can advise existing licenced sponsors on how to remain compliant with the ever changing rules.

We can also assist with:

  • Advice on the EU Settlement Scheme
  • Brexit-related immigration and employment law changes
  • Preparing for Brexit