In March 2021, the UK government released their publication of its New Plan for Immigration. The publication set out several changes to UK immigration. And on 26th August 2021, the roadmap specific to Sponsorship was released.
The UK’s Points-based immigration system: sponsorship roadmap focuses on the changes to sponsorship system which will come into effect over the next three years. The roadmap aims to deliver simpler and more streamlined services, with the view to make navigation and time management easier as compared to the current system.
What have we seen so far?
The UK government has replaced the complicated Tier 2 system with a new Skilled Worker migrant programme. With this change, other crucial changes also include:
- Removal of the Resident Labour Market Test;
- Suspension of the cap on skilled workers;
- Introduction of the pre-license priority service;
- A paperless sponsor license application process; and
- Redesign of the guidance for sponsors.
The changes above have somewhat simplified the process of obtaining a Skilled Worker visa for migrant workers and has also allowed for better management of the Sponsor Management System. While the key changes above are highly welcomed, management of the sponsor license is still not business friendly.
What is happening next?
For the remainder of 2021, a number of upcoming changes to the current sponsorship system are set out in the roadmap, including:
- Simplifying the supporting evidence required to become a sponsor – this is intended to reduce the processing time for applications.
- Creating a new support service for small and micro businesses.
- Creating a new Skilled Worker eligibility checking tool to help potential employers and workers check their eligibility for the Skilled Worker visa.
- A pilot salary checking mechanism operated in conjunction with HMRC, to verify salary payments.
- Review of fees with an increase in fees expected.
From 2022 onwards
A range of technological and system reforms are expected to occur between 2022 and 2024, with priority to be given to the areas of customer service, IT, and compliance. It is also expected that the new system will be extended to allow for student sponsorship.
Global Business Mobility Route
Perhaps one of the more crucial reforms, the introduction of the Global Business Mobility route, is a welcome change. With the aim of attracting businesses and highly skilled individuals to the UK, the route will simplify immigration to the UK for businesses by bringing together, reforming and expanding a number of existing routes.
The new route will be established by Spring 2022. Here are some changes that we can look forward to:
- Changes to existing provisions for intra-company transferees.
- Changes to existing arrangements implementing the UK’s trade commitments in respect of contractual service suppliers and independent professionals.
- Changes to the arrangements for employees of an overseas business assigned to the UK to establish a branch or subsidiary of that business. In areas where the government is looking to relax existing rules, we can expect changes to the Representative of Overseas Business visa. For example, the allowance of more than one representative depending on factors such as the size of investment into the UK.
- New provisions to accommodate import and export-related secondments to, for example, better accommodate scenarios in which an overseas business has contracted with a UK business for the supply of goods and needs to second workers to the supplier for the purposes of product development or familiarisation.
Why should you apply for a sponsor license now?
With the many reforms and the ever-changing global business market, this is the best time to apply for a sponsor license regardless of the size of your company.
- The initial application process will be quicker, with simplified supporting documentation being required for the application.
- With a simpler process, the Home Office is aiming to improve their service standards and to provide a faster end-to-end journey from application to approval.
- A simpler process to renew the license – the Home Office will be reviewing license renewal patterns and certain sponsors will no longer need to renew their license every 4 years.
- Reforms will be made from mid-2022 onwards to make the Sponsor Management System more streamlined for sponsors. This will allow for better management of existing workers as well as better planning for future hires.
Having a sponsor license for businesses is no longer a desirable add on, but rather an essential tool to facilitate the global hiring of highly skilled workers.