New changes to reporting duties for employers with sponsor licences
11 November 2022
Changes for licensed sponsors
UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) has published some changes to the guidance for organisations that hold licences to sponsor workers in the UK.
Some of these are minor or procedural, such as reflecting that migrants of certain nationalities no longer need to register with the police on arrival or every time they move address.
However some are more substantive and, generally, these changes are good news for sponsors.
Reporting changes to sponsored workers’ start dates
The biggest change has been to how sponsors are required to handle changes to work dates.
Previously, if a worker’s start date was delayed then the sponsor needed to report this via its Sponsorship Management System within 10 working days – if it was delayed by more than 28 days then the organisation needed to stop sponsoring the migrant (meaning the sponsor needed to restart the process if it still wanted to the worker to join them).
Now sponsors do not need to report if the start date is delayed for a period under 28 days. This removes an administrative burden for sponsors.
It is also now possible for the sponsor to keep a worker whose start date is delayed by more than 28 days if they report the change of start date and provide reasons.
However, the guidance does warn that UKVI may still cancel the worker’s visa if they are not satisfied by the reason given for the delay. The guidance suggests examples of suitable reasons, such as:
- travel disruption due to natural disaster, military conflict or pandemic;
- 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.
NB: Be sure to conduct correct checks of sponsored employees’ right to work
Sponsors should be conducting right to work checks for all workers before they start employment anyway, but it is especially important that they do so where the start date is delayed by more than 28 days.
In such cases, as discussed above, there is a chance that UKVI will still cancel the visa – if they do so, the worker would no longer have the right to work so sponsors may be employing them illegally and may become liable for a civil penalty of up to £20,000. However, if the right to work checks are done in a fully compliant manner before the start of employment, the organisation will have a statutory excuse against the civil penalty and won’t need to pay it.
Reminder to carry out right to work checks for changes of employment
The new guidance contains a reminder that before a sponsored worker starts a new role – even if it is for the same employer, relevant right to work checks should be carried out once their new UKVI application has been approved.
This stands to reason as, although the existing right to work check will provide a statutory excuse against civil penalties for the remainder of the original permission, the employer will be aware that there is a change in status and can no longer rely on the existing check.
Reporting sponsored staff taking unpaid leave
Previously, if a worker took four or more weeks unpaid leave in a calendar year then sponsors were required to withdraw sponsorship. Now, similar to the changes for delayed start dates, if sponsors want to keep employing the worker they just need to report the reasons for the unpaid leave.
However, as with the delayed start date, UKVI may still cancel the worker’s permission if they are not satisfied by the reasons.
New exemption from the Immigration Skills Charge
The new guidance also includes details of a new exemption from the Immigration Skills Charge for sponsors with licences in the Global Business Mobility – Senior or Specialist Worker category (previously known as Intra-Company Transfer). These changes are still subject to new regulations being approved by Parliament, but the plan is that Senior or Specialist Workers sponsored from the beginning of 2023 who are EU nationals (or Latvian non-citizens) and are assigned to the UK from an EU business for under three years will be exempt from the Immigration Skills Charge – potentially saving sponsors up to £3,000. However, please note that this does not apply to EEA or Swiss nationals – this is a rare instance where rules for EU nationals do not apply also to Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
For more detailed immigration, sponsorship and right to work advice and for any other questions on these and other new immigration developments for UK businesses and firms abroad moving staff to the UK please contact us on +44(0)207 033 9527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.