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By Vanessa Ganguin

New immigration guidance for UK employers seeking to sponsor staff post-Brexit

7 April, 2020

The latest version of the Home Office guidance for employers seeking to sponsor Tier 2 and 5 workers is another indication that the Government intends to proceed with an overhaul of the UK’s immigration system by the end of the year despite the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Home Office update on 6 April 2020 acknowledges the post-Brexit immigration system is still due to commence on 1 January 2021.

Whatever we think of the wisdom or feasibility of devising and implementing an entirely new immigration system while UK Visas & Immigration struggles to cope with the evolving consequences of the spread of Covid-19, the new guidelines encourage employers to proceed with obtaining a sponsor licence ahead of the end of the year when the post-Brexit system is due to start.

The Government’s policy statement of 19 February 2020 urged employers who do not already hold a sponsor licence to consider applying for one, in advance of the post-Brexit immigration system.

To mitigate the significant upheaval caused by the removal of free movement from the European Economic Area, the new system will be in some ways more flexible than the current one.

In particular the required skill level for jobs in the Skilled Worker category (replacing Tier 2 (General)) will reduce to Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) Level 3 (approximately A level standard) from RQF Level 6 (diploma and above) for certain occupations. There will also be a reduction of the minimum general salary threshold from £30,000 to £25,600 – and in some circumstances even lower salaries will be accepted.

This is all confirmed in the updated guidance.

Employers with a licence will now be able to sponsor from 1 January 2021 people with occupations considered skilled at RQF Level 3 and Level 4 which are listed below.

The April 6 guidance update also provides some information for prospective sponsors who will be looking to sponsor at this reduced skill level, including the eligibility requirements for approval of an application.

There are also useful details on how to make a sponsor licence application as well as the circumstances in which an employer may be refused.

Applying for sponsor licences before you know who you need to sponsor

Crucially, employers are encouraged to apply early “even if you are not currently in a position to sponsor migrants under the existing system, or are not sure if or when you will need sponsor migrants under the new system from January 2021.

“In such cases, provided you meet all of the other requirements set out in this guidance, we can grant you a licence but will not allocate any CoS [Certificate of Sponsorship] to you at this stage. Once you know that you will need to appoint migrant workers, you can request the number of CoS you need.”

The guidance confirms the Government’s policy statement position that applications under the new system will be accepted from Autumn 2020.

With the current turmoil at a Home Office struggling to deal with the growing challenges of the global Coronavirus crisis, employers should start thinking over the next few weeks about starting to prepare to apply for a sponsor licence if they do not already have one, or to renew an existing licence due to expire.

The Home Office insist that that they are aiming for normal service standards, but employers should prepare for delays.

HR processes, record-keeping, reporting and right-to-work check compliance should all be health-checked in advance to avoid complications.

This quieter lockdown period should provide a perfect opportunity for businesses to prepare.

For more information on sponsor licences please contact us.

Resident Labour Test

Despite confirming lower skills and salary thresholds, there is no mention of removing the resident labour market test which the new post-Brexit immigration system is meant to abolish from the start of next January. This was expected to make employing foreign workers easier when free movement from the EEA ends. Hopefully this is an oversight and not a sign the Government may be backing out of removing the costly and time-consuming resident labour market test across the board.

The Home Secretary has also asked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to review the shortage occupation lists – occupations for which no such test is necessary. The MAC has agreed and will respond by September 2020 – just three months before the new immigration system is due to start.

New jobs added to the skilled worker list

Occupations skilled at Level 3 and Level 4 can now be sponsored as well as those considered higher skilled by the Home Office. Migrants filling these role can now also be sponsored:

Overhead electrical lines worker at Linesman Erector 2 (LE2)

Managers and proprietors in agriculture and horticulture

Managers and proprietors in forestry, fishing and related services

Health care practice managers

Residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors

Property, housing and estate managers

Waste disposal and environmental services managers

Managers and proprietors in other services eg: Betting shop manager, Graphic design classified manager, Library manager, Plant hire manager, Production manager

Planning, process and production technicians

Architectural and town planning technicians

IT operations technicians

Medical and dental technicians

Health associate professionals – therapists such as: Acupuncturist, Homeopath, Hypnotherapist, Massage therapist, Reflexologist, Sports therapist

Protective service associate professionals such as: Customs officer, Immigration officer, Operations manager (security services), Scenes of crime officer, Security manager

Artists working in visual arts such as Illustrator, Art work restorer, Portrait painter, Sculptor

Authors, writers and translators

Actors, entertainers and presenters

Dancers and choreographers

Product, clothing and related designers

Ship and hovercraft officers

Estimators, valuers and assessors

Financial and accounting technicians

Business and related associate professionals such as: Business systems analyst, Data analyst, Marine consultant, Planning assistant, Project administrator, Project coordinator

Buyers and procurement officers

Marketing associate professionals such as Business development executive, Fundraiser, Market research analyst, Marketing consultant, Marketing executive

Conference and exhibition managers and organisers

Public services associate professionals Civil servant (Higher Executive Officer, Senior Executive Officer)

Vocational and industrial trainers and instructors

Careers advisers and vocational guidance specialists

Inspectors of standards and regulations

Health and safety officers

Office managers

Customer service managers and supervisors