Brief View of Skilled Points-Based Immigration Sponsorship ‘Roadmap’

Shahid Azeem

8 September 2021

The government has announced its policy paper in August 2021 for ‘employers’ hiring ‘skilled workers’ from overseas to develop the ‘sponsorship’ roadmap of the ‘UK points-based immigration system’ for the period ahead as a follow-up of the ‘New Plan’ for Immigration issued in March 2021. The roadmap will be applied in the next three years (2021-2024) period. It pledges to simplify the process and provide an easy-to-handle service for sponsoring employers. The improvement done so far since December 2020 includes elimination of the ‘Resident labour Market Test’, deferral of the cap on the skilled workers, launch of the pre-licence priority service, digital sponsor licence application process, and revamping sponsorship guidance. The Home Office says that proposed changes reduce the processing time of employing a foreign national almost eight weeks. The global pandemic impact is not inclusive in it.

Nevertheless, the sponsors have apprehensions that the exclusion of ‘Resident labour Market Test’ may increase compliance monitoring. It can increase the rate of Home Office visits to sponsors’ business premises. On the other hand, the priority service has proven already problematic with reduced accessibility. The improvement of the sponsorship guidance is also upsetting in a sense that earlier it was a large single document but now there might be numerous large documents which does not seem to make it easier. The actual user response is yet to come up. The roadmap is bringing further changes to the present sponsorship system till the end of 2021.

In addition, the Home Office is also streamlining the supporting evidence to be a sponsor for accelerating the end on dispensation of applications. It can be a welcome move with the Home Office approved formats for smaller businesses and start-ups particularly. A new support service for small and micro enterprises and a new ‘Skilled Worker’ eligibility checker testing the job eligibility criteria of Skilled Worker route for employers and workers will be introduced. The HMRC will be engaged in a trial system of new salary check for the Home Office compliance reforms for promised salary payment verifications. Employers will be permitted to evidence salary payments by alternative means to PAYE. The Home Office also pledges to review its fees to make it ‘fair’ with the introduction of new system. Therefore, the Home Office aim of the reforms is better customer service, IT, compliance, and coordinating-strategy.

For the improvement of customer service, the Home Office is planning an easy to manage service for conforming ‘straightforward’ sponsors with a review of licence renewal system. It means compliant sponsors will need not renew their licence every four years. The service standards will be improved also by Spring 2022 to deliver faster application and approval processes. The priority service will cut short the earlier eight weeks processing time too. The Home Office research on barriers of SMEs in applying sponsor licence will yield to the tailored assistance package and improved Sponsor Management System (SMS).

The tech reforms may relieve those sponsors and workers impacted by the SMS and application problems. These changes will be launched in three phases. They will be checked with a test group of SMEs and corporate employers in the next two years. Finally, all sponsors will be shifted to the new system by early 2024.  The stage one – sponsoring a visa, will be presented in mid-2022, focusing on ‘customer journey’ for sponsors, approval by the Home Office, invitation to the worker for immigration application. The stage two – managing a licence, will be provided by the end of 2022, launching reformed online SMS for sponsors, renewed sponsored worker’s dashboard with status, requirements, and actions. The Home Office will implement automatic data checks with the assistance of the Companies House and HMRC. The final stage three – becoming a sponsor, will be delivered in early 2023, automatically checking the prospective sponsor’s data, employees’ details, and verifications of office holders.

However, compliance can be a new challenge for the approved sponsors, particularly for the Home Office’s targeted sponsors having high risk of non-compliance. The Home Office compliance checking visits will be targeting high risk non-complying sponsors or with no track record of compliance. The Home Office undertakes to provide risk assessment guidance to confirm assessment fairness and putting sponsors on notice. It will be noticing discrepancies in salary checks to trigger compliance visits. The engagement strategy will be publishing information on design and implementation measures, receiving the stakeholders’ feedback. The stakeholders may be SMEs, premium sponsors, education organizations, and advisory groups.

The government also undertook in its policy statement for the New Immigration Plan that it would deliver a unified sponsored ‘Global Business Mobility’ route in early 2022. It will be integrating, restructuring, and enlarging various current sponsored worker categories such as the ‘Intra Company Transfer’ route. The Home Office promised to overhaul immigration system to make it user-friendly for both sponsors and skilled workers. However, it can not be ignored that changes bring new challenges for all the parties concerned.  

 

N.B.  It is important for Skilled Workers, Start-Ups, SMEs, and premium Sponsors to understand the changes in the British Immigration and Sponsorship System for recruiting and sponsoring skilled workers. For assistance in any immigration and sponsorship matters, please contact our immigration team on 0203 5000 699 or e-mail us on info@morganhillsolicitors.com.

Shahid Azeem

Shahid Azeem

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