If your business employs non-UK nationals, this is for you – especially if you have a Points Based System sponsor licence. If you do not have a licence, you may need one soon!
The Points Based System that has governed employer sponsorship of overseas nationals for 12 years is undergoing its biggest overhaul to date. The purpose is to incorporate European citizens into the PBS when Free Movement ends on 31 December, and to modernise and streamline some aspects after more than a decade. However, there is no cause for alarm. In the long run this is good news for sponsors. Here is some key perspective that you might not find in the voluminous government guidance, immigration rule changes and media reports.
There is more detail to come...
Some detail has still not been published; Brexit planning and discussions are going to the wire. However, there is much that we do know:
The Government has left implementation very late which is, no doubt, largely due to the disruption caused by the pandemic that coincided with its commencement earlier this year, and the biggest shock to economies, labour markets and government programmes across Europe since the second world war. However, the key points to note are as follows:
- This is not a new Points Based System. It is an overhaul of the Points Based System we have had, and employers have used, since 2008.
- You do not need to apply for a new Sponsor Licence if you already have one. It will be automatically adjusted by the Government so that you can use the new categories when they open.
- Certificates of Sponsorship will still feature. The Government says it will ensure allocations are available.
- Existing immigration status will not become invalid. Your sponsored migrants need not rush to apply for new status unless is about to expire.
- Pending applications stay valid and will be honoured, but careful management is needed for “live” applications which cross the switchover from December into 2021.
- It will be possible to transition to the new categories in most cases.
- Tier 2 will be replaced by Skilled Worker and Intra Company Transfer categories – but there is plenty of crossover.
- There is some liberalisation with lowered salary thresholds and skill levels in some roles
- The Resident Labour Market Test will be abolished.
- Managed well, these changes can widen recruitment opportunities for sponsors without added administrative burden on sponsors
- This is a very good time to review your Sponsor Profile and recruitment needs for the coming months and years, as compliance and enforcement is being stepped up.
- The new categories open in December, with the revised system operating from January 2021.
Actions to take now
- Review your current sponsored migrant cohort and consider the opportunities and risks. Are there migrants currently on Tier 2 (ICT) who you might want to retain for the longer term?
- Are offers likely to made to EEA national who will relocate to the UK after 1 January 2021?
- Is your sponsor compliance of a high standard?
- If you do not have a licence, consider applying if you wish to sponsor migrants in the future. This includes recruitment from the EEA after 31 December 20202.
- Your existing EEA- employees or EEA-dependent family members should apply to the EU Settlement Scheme in order to secure their UK Immigration status.
How we can help
Matthew Davies, partner and head of our immigration team, was involved in consultations that shaped the current PBS and set up the Migration Advisory Committee over a decade ago and headed a City of London law firm team that advised on some of the first applications for sponsor licences and visas in 2008. Last year he was part of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association working group that reported on the Government White Paper behind the current changes, and co-authored and edited two chapters of its report.
Prior to joining Wright Hassall's immigration team, partner Tracie Udall amassed over 20 years’ experience as a front-line UK immigration officer undertaking active operational roles with the UK Immigration Service / Border Force. As such she admitted some of the first PBS migrants to the UK.
Understandably, if you employ skilled migrants you may have concerns about the impact of the new rules while the government puts the final touches to its plans amid the uncertainties of Brexit and the pandemic. We are here to help so please do not hesitate to contact us.