on May 23, 2022
Read Time: 9 Minutes
In August 2021, the Home Office issued ‘The UK’s Points-Based Immigration System Sponsorship Roadmap’. This document set out to explain what changes would be coming to the sponsorship application process and what it means to organisations and colleges that want to bring people to the UK.
The current system is seen by the Government as too slow. Consequently, government ministers are looking to speed up the process for sponsors and the Home Office.
One way that they plan to do this is by automating the sponsor licence system so that checks are faster and easier.
These reforms are part of the Government’s wider process of evolving its immigration strategy post-Brexit. Many parts of the roadmap have already been implemented, but what will these and future changes mean for you?
One of the issues that has always been raised by organisations and colleges is that it takes a long time for sponsorship applications to be processed. This would sometimes mean that workers and students would not have their applications processed in time, or there would be complications.
Because the Government understands that more workers are now needed in key areas such as healthcare and other skilled worker jobs, it wishes to make the process faster. However, the Government also wants to set out specific requirements that businesses and educational institutions must comply with in order to gain a trustworthy reputation.
The Government has set out a roadmap that will streamline the sponsorship process, and make it easier for the Home Office and sponsors to use and make decisions. Part of the Government’s plan is set out in the roadmap:
As part of the new points-based sponsorship system, the Government wants sponsors to “undergo checks to demonstrate they are a genuine business, are solvent, and that the roles they wish to recruit into are credible and meet the salary and skills requirements (if applicable)”.
Sponsors are therefore expected to check the salaries of existing employees at the company and ensure migrant workers are paid at the same rate.
To enforce this requirement, the Government will be linking the system to HM Revenue & Customs, so that data can be collected and checked. This system should make misuse of the Skilled Worker visa easier to identify.
A pilot for this new automated salary check was launched in the fourth quarter of 2021. Any existing applications will be considered under this pilot system, so it is vital that employers are checking their migrant workers’ salaries to ensure these are in line with legislation.
Where there is a shortfall, employers should make up the difference so that the checks can pick this up.
One of the only potential downfalls for this system concerns the accuracy of the data the HMRC system collects on those employers that don’t use the PAYE (Pay as You Earn) system.
Not all companies are required to use PAYE, but this also means they do not routinely send payroll data to HMRC. This could lead to unfair discrimination against these companies.
With the sponsorship system reforms for 2021, the Government aimed to “remove and demystify perceived barriers to use of the system, enabling businesses to feel confident in making future investment decisions with a degree of certainty, especially when they have not used the system before”.
The redesigned sponsorship system was intended to meet three key objectives:
The Government also pledged, in addition to salary checking, the following measures for 2021:
In 2022, the Home office appears to be investing heavily in changes to the IT systems. With these changes, the Government intends to:
Part of the reason for introducing this new IT system is that it will “allow for greater understanding about the sponsor and their sponsored worker for the Home Office, helping to support compliance. By bringing together information held by other departments about organisations, caseworkers will have a fuller picture of the data on a sponsor and sponsored worker, allowing for quicker decision-making”.
This investment in new technology will also help the Home Office when it starts to expand the system changes in late 2022 and into 2023.
The Home Office is keen to ensure that companies and their migrant workers are compliant with the rules. Steps the Home Office is set to take include:
Penalties for non-compliance can include “conditions or limits on recruitment, managed action plans, or suspension and revocation of a sponsor licence”.
For companies that are looking to apply for a sponsorship licence, the new system will make the process easier. However, there will also be more checks to ensure compliance as well as sanctions for companies failing to comply. So, how can employers avoid non-compliance and ensure they have a good standing?
Together with further IT implementations, there are also going to be more reforms for the end of 2022 and into 2023. Some of these include:
These reforms will likely be rolled out slowly at first to allow the system to be tested and allow for a smooth transition from the old system.
For migrant workers, this new system should make the application process easier. However, you still need to ensure you meet the criteria.
There is an online tool that can now assess your eligibility for a Skilled Worker visa.
As an employer, there will be even more emphasis on following the rules. With many of the checks moving to online automated searches, you need to ensure your data is up to date on HMRC and other Home Office systems.
Although many businesses are not required to use PAYE, you may need to consider if switching to PAYE could ease your efforts to obtain a sponsor licence.
Although the application process should be faster under the new reforms, companies that are new to the system should seek help from a professional used to dealing with immigration law. They can give you valuable advice and steer you in the right direction. They can also check your business and working practices to see if you would pass a compliance visit.
The Home Office is clearly looking to improve the application process for employers wishing to apply for a sponsor license. This has always been a sticking point in the past and needed to be overhauled.
While this system will have some bedding-in time, and not be available to all straight away, it will hopefully deliver on the aims the government is setting out in the ‘The UK’s Points-Based Immigration System Sponsorship Roadmap’.
You can get tailored advice on your own circumstances and needs as a business or individual by contacting our business immigration team in London. Please do not hesitate to call Cranbrook Legal today on 0208 215 0053.