News & Insights

What’s next after Coronavirus… BREXIT

Employers – have you thought about staffing levels for 2021?

The coronavirus pandemic appears to be easing with businesses looking to return to work and planning for a swift recovery.  Unfortunately, Brexit is still on the horizon and the transition period will end on 31 December 2020, meaning freedom of movement will end and EU law will no longer apply.  Businesses will soon need to think about how they will operate from January 2021 when the UK will no longer have access to the EU market for workers, services and goods in the same way as we currently do.

If your business relies on workers from the EU, which could also include moving staff from EU sites to the UK, then we strongly recommend that you look at planning your resources now.

Note that if you currently employ EU workers, they must be residing in the UK before 31 December 2020 and be willing to register under the EU Settlement Scheme before June 2021.

Employing or transferring workers from overseas to include Europe from January 2021, will require the employer to register with the Home Office.  The Home Office are actively encouraging employers to register now in plenty of time before the end of the transition period. The new immigration system will come into force on 1 January 2021, however, we believe that migrants with a job offer will be able to apply for visas ahead of time to enable a work start from January 2021.

Sponsor licence

A sponsor licence can be obtained for many different business types to include, charity workers, religious workers, creative and sporting sectors, research and development sectors, approved government schemes, international trade agreement and intra company operations.

Different licences may be registered in the same application, and organisations will be assessed on their ability to monitor and control the actions of their workforce in their specific sectors.

The Home Office place significant trust on the ‘would-be’ sponsor and there is an expectation that the sponsor will abide by the immigration rules and prevent abuse of the system through reporting changes as required under the rules of the scheme.

The process of obtaining a licence is through an online application.  Employers must meet the eligibility requirements which involves providing evidence to show that it is a genuine employer with a lawful trading presence in the UK.

The suitability requirements are much broader to asses.  The Home Office will look at whether the organisation is “honest, dependable and reliable”, and capable of meeting the responsibilities that it expects from sponsors. They will assess human resource and recruitment systems/practices, background of nominated key personnel and genuineness of vacancies.  Assessment can be through an on-site visit or request for paperwork electronically.

Any key personnel who have a history of poor immigration associated with a former licence (even in a previous company) could affect the registration application.

Getting started – submitting the application

Once the organisation has decided on the types of licence for their specific sector, the online application can be prepared.   The organisation must provide at least four documents (which can include employer’s liability insurance, VAT registration HMRC registration, Corporate Bank account, lease for premises and company accounts) to show legal presence and operation in the UK.  The original documents should be available at the time of the application submission together with the relevant fee of £1,476 med/large company or £536 for a small company/charity).

The Home Office are currently accepting documents by email in support of licence applications rather than originals by post.

When do I get a decision?

Decisions take around four to six weeks, however, during the lockdown, we had decisions in around 3 weeks.  The decision is emailed to sponsor.

If successful, the licence is valid for four years from the date of decision.  The sponsor will then have the ability to start sponsoring workers.

If the application is refused, there is no right of appeal against this decision and a six-month cooling off period will prevent the sponsor from making another application until 6 months after the decision.

Getting ready for 2021

Significant changes will be made from the current sponsorship system (known as Tier 2) which currently permits skilled workers with a job offer to work in the UK.  The current skill level is set at the equivalent to an honours bachelor’s degree (RQF level 6).

The minimum skill level for sponsorship will be dropped to RQF level 3 (A level or equivalent) from January 2021. This means that any vacancies for jobs which are considered to be A-level standard can be sponsored.  The removal of the Resident Labour Market Test means that employers do not need to advertise the vacancy in the UK.

Employers who have vacancies at this lower skill level can apply now for a sponsor licence. The Home Office will assess those applications in line with new guidance to consider lower skilled vacancies so that employers can be press ahead with their resource planning.

Otherwise, the application process will be largely the same. Organisations will still need to meet the eligibility and suitability criteria, apply on the same online form and provide supporting evidence of operation.

Organisations granted a licence on the basis that they don’t need it yet, will not be able to sponsor migrants straight away.  The Home Office intends to start accepting Tier 2 (or the new equivalent) visa applications under the new rules from the autumn, so newly granted licences should be operational by then.

We have considerable experience with sponsor licence applications and administration of the licence once established.

If your business has vacancies that may need to be filled by overseas workers from 2021, please get in touch with our immigration team at FSP: immigration@fsp-law.com.