A number of important changes have been made to the guidance for sponsor licence holders by the UK Home Office, some of which welcomed by those affected.
Exemption from immigration skills charge
Subject to new regulations being approved by Parliament, the Home Office intends to exempt sponsors with licences in the Global Business Mobility – Senior or Specialist Worker (SSW) category from the immigration skills charge. In 2023, it is expected that SSW workers assigned from EU businesses for under 3 years will be exempt. This could save large sponsors around £3,000 per employee.
Reporting of changes to start dates
The duty to report on delays to staff start dates has been amended. Previously, if an employee’s start date was delayed, the sponsor would need to report the delay via the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) within 10 working days.
For delays over 28 days, previous rules stated that the sponsor would have to stop sponsoring the migrant.
However, now – under new guidance – sponsors no longer need to report if the start date is delayed for a period under 28 days, and there is a chance they will not need to stop sponsoring a worker if the delay is greater than the same amount of time. Sponsors will need to report delays over 28 days and provide reasons.
One caveat is that UKVI may still cancel a visa if they don’t believe the delay is justified. The guidance lists some suitable reasons, such as:
• travel disruption due to natural disasters, military conflict or pandemics;
• working out contractual notice periods;
• requiring an exit visa for their home country but there are administrative delays getting this; or
• illness, bereavement or other compelling circumstances.
Reporting of unpaid leave
The latest changes to the guidance mean sponsors will no longer need to withdraw their sponsorship if a worker takes four or more weeks’ unpaid leave in a calendar year. Sponsors could keep employing the worker but must report the reasons for the leave via SMS. However, UKVI must be satisfied with the reason for the leave and can cancel the worker’s permission if they are not.
The guidance reminds sponsors that they must carry out right-to-work checks for all workers before they commence employment, including sponsored workers, but it is especially important to do so when there is a delay to the start date of more than 28 days, as there is a risk that UKVI could cancel the worker’s visa. This would bring a risk of civil penalty.
A reminder is also contained in the guidance that when a worker is changing roles, even within the same organisation, right-to-work checks should be carried out once their new UKVI application has been approved. For more information and guidance on right-to-work checks, Willans’ recent webinar hosted by their team of experienced lawyers is available to re-watch on catch-up now.
If you are a sponsor and would like advice on how these changes may affect you, please contact Willans LLP’s employment law & business immigration team.