With constantly changing UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) policies, it is becoming more and more difficult to employ foreign migrant workers from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) region.
UK employers, however, are increasingly looking to hire skilled non-EEA migrant workers to meet their human resources needs. According to the recent yearly migration statistics published by the Office for National Statistics, Tier 2 visas granted for non-EEA skilled workers totalled 92,805 in the year ending March 2017. This figure keeps increasing every year as more employers employ non-EEA migrants to fill a gap in the workforce that can not be filled by a settled worker.
Employers looking to bring non-EEA migrants to the UK should have permissions as a UKVI licensed sponsor and comply with the ever-changing immigration regulations and sponsor duties to retain their sponsor licence.
At the time of this writing, there are almost thirty thousand UK organisations listed in the UKVI’s register of licensed sponsors. More than 250 UK businesses are successful in obtaining the licence every month to sponsor non-EEA workers under Tiers 2 and 5. However, hundreds of employers also lose their sponsor licence as they fail to meet their sponsor responsibilities and so it’s equally important to focus on the long-term compliance.
In this post, we want to present you with a general overview of how UK employers can employ non-EEA migrants following the UKVI sponsor licence process and remain compliant with regulations and sponsor duties.
UKVI Sponsor Licence
The UKVI introduced the new Points Based System (PBS) replacing the previous Work Permit scheme back in 2008. Under the PBS, employers are required to obtain a sponsor licence to employ someone from outside the EEA and Switzerland.
Depending on the employment needs, an employer can apply for a sponsor licence that allows them to sponsor migrants under Tier 2 (skilled workers with long-term job offers) and Tier 5 (skilled temporary workers) categories.
Applying for a sponsor licence is fairly complex, and the UKVI recommends a four-step process for the application.
- Check the eligibility requirements for your business
- Choose the licence type for application – Tier 2, Tier 5
- Appoint someone who can manage sponsorship within your business.
- Make application online, pay the fees, and submit supporting documents.
Following a successful application, the UKVI grants a licence rating to the employer and lists them in the official register of sponsors. The licence is valid for four years under conditions of maintaining compliance.
The sponsor licence itself, however, doesn’t automatically guarantee that the prospective non-EEA employees will be allowed to come to the UK. It allows employers to issue certificates of sponsorship provided that have jobs that are suitable for sponsorship.
The certificate of sponsorship is then used by the skilled foreign workers that you employ to make a valid application to enter the UK or leave to remain in the UK.
Tier 2 and Tier 5 Migrants
Under the Points Based System (PBS), Tiers 2 and 5 are the main immigration routes for non-EEA migrants who wish to work in the UK.
There are four different categories under the tier 2 route – Tier 2 General (to sponsor for skilled workers), Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer (to transfer overseas employer to the UK branch of the company), Tier 2 Sportsperson (to sponsor elite sportspeople and coaches) and Tier 2 Minister of Religion (to sponsor religious workers).
There are two main categories under the tier 5 route – Tier 5 Temporary Worker (to sponsor temporary workers for organisations with cultural, charitable, religious or international objectives) and Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme (to sponsor young people aged between 18 and 30 for cultural exchange schemes).
UKVI Compliance Audits
Once the employer has been granted a sponsor licence and starts sponsoring non-EEA migrants, it’s essential to comply with the UKVI regulations and fulfil the sponsorship duties.
UKVI will have assessed the appropriate systems of the employer required to sponsor employees during the time of sponsor licence application. Once the employer starts employing non-EEA migrants, it’s crucial to follow the regulations and carry out those sponsorship duties.
The UKVI audits the compliance of every Tier 2 sponsor at least once and they can turn up to audit the business even without any prior information. The audit generally involves UKVI assessing the employer’s ability to comply with sponsor licence duties such as having a system in place to capture key employee information including absences, visa expiry dates and changes in employee status.
Most employers use the expertise of immigration law firms to help maintain the UKVI sponsor licence compliance and to ensure everything is in place as per the UKVI requirements.
Need Help Applying for Sponsor Licence?
At Edmans & Co, we have a dedicated team of experienced lawyers who can help you in the process of applying for the UKVI sponsor licence and employing non-EEA migrants. We can also assist your employees in making a valid tier 2 or tier 5 application and advise on maintaining long-term UKVI compliance.