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UNITED KINGDOM: Changes to Sponsorship Guidance for Employers

On 19 November 2020 the UK government published updated guidance for employers on how to sponsor individuals on the new Worker (formerly Tier 2) and Temporary Worker (formerly Tier 5) immigration routes.

Among the changes, most of which take effect on 1 December 2020, are the following:

Existing Licences and Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS)

Existing licences (along with Certificate of Sponsorship annual allocation) will be transferred to the new system from 1 December, in the equivalent route (or routes), and with the same expiry date as the existing licence.

Notably Tier 2 General will now be known as Skilled Worker and Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) will be known as Intra-Company.

Employers do not need to update any USED Certificates of Sponsorship for their current Tier 2 General and ICT population. They will simply extend or apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain under the new rules when required (please note Newland Chases advise clients to instruct us at least 3 months before an employee’s visa is due to expire).

Transitional arrangements for requested or assigned but unused Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS)

Assigned Tier 2 General CoS

If an employer assigned a Tier 2 (General) Certificate of Sponsorship (restricted or unrestricted) to a worker before 1 December 2020 but it has not been used in an immigration application by that date, they can ‘upgrade’ the CoS to a Skilled Worker CoS, provided the CoS was assigned to the worker no more than 3 months ago.

The employer can do this by adding a ‘sponsor note’ to the CoS. In the sponsor note they must include the following information:

  • the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) scheme reference number under which the worker will be paid – if they will not be paid through PAYE, the reason must be explained (as detailed below)
  • that the worker’s salary will meet the new salary rules – unless the transitional provision for allowances applies, this means no allowances can be included in the salary figure (as detailed below)
  • option specific criteria depending on which option the applicant is relying on for points .

Restricted CoS not yet granted

If the employer applied for a Tier 2 (General) restricted CoS before 28 November 2020 but the application has not yet been decided, the Home Office will decide the application on that date and notify the employer of the outcome. If the application is granted in the Tier 2 General (New hires – restricted) category, this will become a ‘defined CoS’ and the employer will be able to assign the CoS to a Skilled Worker on or after 1 December 2020.

If the employers was allocated a Tier 2 (General) restricted CoS before 1 December 2020 but has not assigned it to a worker by that date, they can ‘upgrade’ the CoS to a Skilled Worker defined CoS and assign it to a worker, provided it was allocated no more than 3 months ago.

Assigned Tier 2 ICT CoS

If the employer assigned a CoS to a worker before 1 December 2020 under the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) rules but the worker has not used that CoS to make an application, the employer can ‘upgrade’ the CoS to an Intra-Company CoS so the worker can use it in a relevant immigration application on or after 1 December 2020, providing it was assigned no more than 3 months ago.

The employer can do this by adding a ‘sponsor note’ to the CoS. In the sponsor note they must include the following information:

  • the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) scheme reference number under which the worker will be paid – if they will not be paid through PAYE, the reason must be explained (as detailed below)
  • confirmation that the worker’s salary meets the general threshold and going rate requirements of the new Intra-Company routes.

New Certificates of Sponsorship

From 1 December 2020 there will be two types of CoS:

  1. ‘Defined’ CoS: these are for Skilled Workers applying for entry clearance (a visa) from outside the UK. Employers will need to apply for these on a case-by-case basis but there is no additional application fee. The Home Office plan to decide on a defined CoS application within one working day and allocate it to the employer’s SMS account, ready to be assigned to a worker within 3 months. Once assigned the applicant will then have 3 months to use it to support an application for entry clearance.
  2. ‘Undefined’ CoS: these will come from the employer’s annual allocation and will be used for:
    • Skilled Workers applying for permission from within the UK;
    • Workers on all other routes, whether applying for entry clearance, permission to enter or permission to stay

New Certificate of Sponsorship requirements

The Home Office now requires all new CoS to state the PAYE details of the employee on the CoS (if the employee is not paid through PAYE, the reason must be explained). This is so the Home Office can make regular checks with HMRC to ensure employers are paying their sponsored workers appropriately.

It is also worth noting that the new guidance omits the exception of not reporting changes of salary from the level stated on the CoS due to annual increments or bonuses. Employers are therefore expected to report ANY salary changes – if unsure, employers should always reach out to a Newland Chase representative for clarification.

The Loss of Allowances

According to the new immigration rules, allowances can no longer be used to calculate whether a salary qualifies for a Skilled Worker visa.

Our Advice

To prepare for the new system employers should ensure that:

  • annual allocation is reviewed to ensure they have enough undefined CoS once the new rules take effect;
  • they update processes to ensure they are able to provide the PAYE information for any CoS under the new system (where applicable).

The team at Newland Chase is happy to help and ready to advise so you can approach your Sponsor Licence requirements with total confidence. Schedule a tailored Sponsor Licence evaluation.

Employers concerned about the future work mobility of UK nationals in the EU can also rely on Newland Chase’s global immigration services and expertise.

For general advice and information on immigration and business travel to the UK, please contact us.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this immigration alert has been abridged from laws, court decisions, and administrative rulings and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the applicability of this information, please contact Peregrine © 2021 Peregrine Immigration Management Ltd.