Surviving a global pandemic may be occupying many business leaders’ time but the world keeps turning and Brexit is not going away. This means that Freedom of Movement will end on 31 December 2020 and the Government is pressing ahead with preparations for the UK’s new Immigration system. The Immigration Act 2020 was passed into law yesterday. As details of the new rules emerge and the deadline approaches, employers should ensure they are ready for the new system, particularly as the process is complex and the processing times are lengthy. Claire Taylor-Evans, Senior Associate, specialist in Employment and Corporate Immigration, addresses some frequently asked questions about the new scheme.
To whom does the new immigration scheme apply?
Under the new system all non-UK residents will require permission to come to UK from 1 January 2021 to live, work and study. This includes EEA nationals who are not resident in the UK by 31 December 2020.
What about our current EU workers in the UK?
Workers already in the UK by 31 December 2020 will not be governed by the new scheme. They should instead be encouraged to apply under the EU settlement scheme. If they have not already done so, they have until 30 June 2021 to do so.
We rely on non UK workers - what does that mean for our future recruitment policy?
In order to recruit non UK workers from 1 January 2021, businesses will require a Skilled Worker Licence and any skilled workers they employ will need to meet a points requirement. They will need to be sponsored by the business to carry out a specific job and meet requisite salary and skill levels.
What is the difference between the new UK system and the current system?
The existing immigration regime requires employers recruiting from outside the EU/EEA to register as Licensed Sponsors. With the end of free movement, this system will now be extended to cover EEA workers, but there are some important changes.
Fortunately, some of the more onerous hurdles to recruitment that currently exist under the current system will be removed or relaxed. This includes the Resident Labour Market test which requires advertising of the role for 28 days. The minimum skill threshold will also be lowered from RQF level 6 ( degree level) to RQF Level 3. The salary threshold currently at £30,000 will be decreased to £25,600 and the migrant can trade salary points if they meet other criteria, such as having a PHD relevant to their job or a job in a shortage occupation.
We currently have a Tier 2 licence. Do we need to make a new application?
No. If you already have a Sponsor Licence under the existing scheme, your licence will automatically be converted to a Skilled Worker Licence. However, remember that licences only last 4 years so check when you need to renew.
Licences will expire on the original expiry date. A licence with two years left to run at 31 December 2020 will expire on 31 December 2022.
We will require a Skilled Worker Licence. How long does the process take?
You should allow eight weeks from submission of your application for it to be processed by the UK Visa and Immigration Authority. Due to the imminent deadline and the number of businesses who may need to apply, we are seeing an increase in the normal processing times. Therefore, you should apply as soon as possible.
What does the process involve?
You will need to complete an application form, nominate key personnel to manage the licence and collate and submit a number of original documents to prove that you are a genuine organisation. In our experience, this part of the process takes clients much longer than they anticipate so businesses should prepare as soon as possible. You will also need to present information concerning your business activities in the UK and your existing workforce and explain why you are seeking a sponsor licence.
The UKVI will want to ensure that your organisation is genuine and has systems and processes in place to comply with the onerous record keeping and reporting obligations which attach to the Sponsorship Licence. This sometimes involves an audit.
How much does a licence cost?
This depends on the size of your organisation. If you are a small employer with a turnover of less than 10.2 million and 50 staff or less the cost will be £536. If you are not the cost will be £1,476. There will also be costs for issuing certificates to the migrant under the licence and additional application costs. In addition to the application fees you will also need to pay the Immigration Skills Charge of £1,000 per year per visa. If you require legal assistance with the application process, you should also budget for these costs.
What else do I need to know about the licence?
UK immigration rules are complex and non-compliance can result in losing your licence, which adversely impacts upon any sponsored migrants and your ability to recruit in the future. It is important that those within your organisation who are responsible for the licence are fully aware of their obligations. If you have a Licence – you should invest in full compliance training.
Can you assist?
Yes. We are highly experienced in managing this complex process on behalf of clients to ensure applications have the best chances of success. If you are successful in your application we can also help you to manage your licence and provide full compliance training to ensure you protect your licence by complying with your new duties and responsibilities.
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.