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Home Secretary Priti Patel

By Vanessa Ganguin

Employers urged to apply for sponsor licences early as more details of new points-based immigration system revealed

13 July 2020

The UK Government has published more details about how the post-Brexit points-based immigration system will work with sponsor licences “an integral part” of the new system.

In a 130 page guidance document snappily titled ‘The UK’s Points-Based Immigration System Further Details’ the Home Office revealed a few more insights into the UK’s new immigration system set to come into force on 1 January 2021.

So that you don’t have to read it all, I have summarised them below.

The big change to UK immigration is still the much heralded end to freedom of movement with the European Union which means EU nationals (as well as EEA and Swiss citizens) will be facing the same rules non-EU nationals do.

Employers now face having to secure a sponsor licence if they wish to employ EU nationals from next year as well as paying £1,000 Immigration Skills Surcharge for each of them. With most businesses yet to secure a sponsor licence, we will be very busy in the run up to next year. Companies are urged to sort out a sponsor licence sooner rather than later.

“Overall, the sponsorship system will form an integral part of the Points-Based System by supporting compliance with our Immigration Rules,” the document intimates.

“A sponsorship requirement will apply to the Skilled Worker route, to the Health and Care Visa and to the student route, as well as to some specialised worker routes. This applies to both EU and non-EU citizens who come on these routes.”

Fees for a sponsor licence depends on size of company and the route they apply under. For example, under the Skilled Worker route, for small and charitable organisations the fee is £536; for medium or large business the fee is £1,476. Further information can be found on gov.uk.

The other major news is more details on the Health and Social Care Visa also set out this week. This is due to start from 4 August 2020 and offer health key workers a streamlined process – though it has been criticised for not including most categories of care workers.

Some good news for employers next year

Most categories appear to remain much the same as they do now for non-EU citizens, though changes have been unveiled for the skilled worker route (currently called Tier 2) as well as more details on the Health and Care Visa.

The good news for employers in the new policy document is confirmation of the government’s intention to abolish the resident labour market test and cap for the number of Tier 2 (skilled) sponsored workers.

The document says: “As a first step towards reducing the burdens on employers and streamlining the sponsorship system, we will suspend the current cap on Tier 2 (General) visas (the current route for skilled workers), which will result in there being no limit on the numbers of skilled workers who can come to the UK. This change alone will reduce the end-to- end process for sponsoring skilled workers by up to four weeks.”

The other positive takeaway for many of our clients will be the ability to allow those already in the UK under an intra-company transfer to switch to a skilled worker category.

The graduate route will also make the UK much more attractive to international students again, reversing changes made by previous Conservative governments. According to the new document graduates will be able to apply for leave for two years (three for PHDs) to find work in the UK.

The Government is still committed to a non-sponsored highly-skilled route too, with further details to emerge after consultation with stakeholders, which is good news too.

For more details on sponsor licence requirements, please contact us on 0207 033 9527 or enquiries@vanessaganguin.com.

Who is included under the Health and Care Visa?

According to more details on the Health and Care Visa, healthworkers can enjoy fast-track entry, dedicated support and a discount on the £610 standard visa application fee.

Health and care professionals applying on this route can expect a decision on whether they can work in the UK within just three weeks, following biometric enrolment.

Healthworkers included are exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge as well as their immediate family.Those working in health and social care who do not qualify for the Health and Care Visa will still be able to claim a reimbursement from the Immigration Health Surcharge if they have paid this on or after 31 March.

They will need to meet the basic requirements other skilled workers do, but will be exempt from requiring the bonus “tradeable” points-based requirements.

A Health and Care Visa will afford 20 extra points even if the position only pays £20,480, so long as it is on the following list of occupations:

Biological scientists and biochemists

Physical Scientists

Medical Practitioners

Psychologists

Pharmacists

Ophthalmic Opticians

Dental practitioners

Medical Radiographers

Podiatrists

Health Professionals not elsewhere classified

Physiotherapists

Occupational Therapists

Speech and Language Therapists

Therapy professionals not elsewhere classified

Nurses

Midwives

Social Workers

Paramedics

Who isn’t covered by the Health and Care Visa?

Conspicuously absent from the above list are:

Care assistant

Care worker

Carer

Home care assistant

Home carer

Support worker (nursing home)

Charities and the care sector have hit out at the absence of care workers from the scheme – a controversial move with the care sector in a vulnerable state even before the Coronavirus epidemic.

While care managers may be able to be come the UK under the skilled worker route, more junior care staff will not qualify as because their skill level is RQF1, not RQF3. Many also earn less than the absolute minimum of £20,480.

What will plug the gaps for roles deemed “unskilled”?

EU nationals have lost freedom of movement and so, like non-EU nationals will only be able to enter such professions without meeting salary tests if they have entered the UK as family dependants, students, or under the Youth Mobility Scheme.

EU nationals will not need to provide biometric details at Visa Application Centres

According to the Home Office announcement this week, EU nationals will not at first need to submit biometric data (fingerprints and a photo) at an overseas visa application centre as non-EU nationals will continue to do to apply for entry clearance and leave to remain.

For most visas EU citizens will be able to just provide a digital photo of their face using a smartphone app. Though, for a small number of low volume routes (to be confirmed later this year) they will need to attend an overseas visa application centre to have their photo taken.

In the long run, however, the document says that there will have to be self enrolment of biometric data.

What are the changes for offenders?

Foreign criminals sentenced to more than a year in jail may be refused from entering Britain. The new Home Office details suggest the new system will be more discretionary than before, adding more uncertainty to people who have a conviction

The changes also mean EU nationals who had a higher threshold for criminality will be treated the same as those from non-EU countries.

 

For more details on the new system and sponsor licence requirements, please contact us on 0207 033 9527 or enquiries@vanessaganguin.com.