If your business has had any dealings with business immigration and, more particularly, the Points Based System operated by United Kingdom Visas and Immigration (UKVI), you will know that business immigration law is an area that is constantly changing.
Each year the requirements of sponsors and applicants in making applications under the Points Based System become more and more onerous, as do the obligations that are imposed on licensed sponsors.
In this article we look at some of the key changes that have taken place in the area of business immigration over the past year and also give you a taster of what to expect for 2016.
This year, like those before it, has seen a great deal of changes in the world of business immigration. Some of the key changes to note are:
- The UKVI guidance for sponsors under Tier 2 and Tier 5 (the Guidance) has been changed and updated regularly. It is essential that employer sponsors are familiar with the Guidance and have access to the most recent version. The most recent Guidance, which was effective from 19 November 2015, can be found here.
- The new Guidance discusses the importance of employers upholding their obligations as licensed sponsors and has placed an emphasis on the level of trust that is placed in such sponsors. The UKVI has highlighted further its duty to ensure that employer sponsors do not create a risk to immigration control. This has been reflected in the recent increase in the UKVI undertaking on the spot compliance checks and taking a far stricter approach with issues of non-compliance. It is therefore now more important than ever that employer sponsors are up to date in respect of the record keeping and reporting duties.
- 2015 also saw the addition of tier specific requirements for employers when applying to become a licensed sponsor. Therefore, in order for an employer’s application to become a licensed sponsor to be successful, employers shall need to ensure that all of the relevant requirements are met, both generally and in respect of the particular tier under which are applying and, further, that all of the necessary supporting documentation is provided.
- In October 2015, a number of occupations, particularly nurses, were temporarily added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). The SOL is a list of roles that the Government has accepted are difficult to fill. As a result, if an employer sponsor wishes to appoint a migrant worker into such a role, they are exempt from certain requirements.
- 2015 also saw the introduction of a “genuineness test” in respect of certain tiers. For example, under Tier 2 (General) the UKVI shall now need to be satisfied that there is a genuine vacancy which attracts the necessary skills and salary level. As a result when applying for a sponsor licence, employers now also need to provide much more detail about the nature of the roles into which they are looking to recruit migrant workers before an application is accepted.
What to expect in 2016
In 2016 there will most likely be further refinements to the tiers under the points based system as part of the UKVI’s policy to tackle areas where there is abuse of immigration controls. This is likely to result in stricter requirements in respect of applications under these tiers and increased obligations on licensed sponsors.
Following the introduction of the requirement for applicants to obtain criminal records checks for certain Tier 1 applications, it is likely that this requirement will also be rolled out to Tier 2 applications and possibly other routes.
Another point to note is that the outcome of the most recent MAC report into business immigration is due shortly. MAC is due to report on the following:
- Whether Tier 2 General recruitment should be restricted to genuine skills shortages and highly specialist experts only.
- Whether a skills levy should be applied to businesses recruiting from outside the European Economic Area in order to fund apprenticeships in the UK.
- The impact of the number of Tier 2 visas and whether the automatic right for dependants of Tier 2 migrant workers to work in the UK should be restricted
- The ways in which the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) route could be tightened and the effect this may have on businesses.
We are therefore likely to see a number of changes in these areas in 2016.
Immigration law is renowned for its complexities and frequent changes and it will appear that 2016 will be another interesting year for the development of this area. What is clear from the changes that have taken place in 2015 and that we expect to see in 2016 is that the pressure on Government to reduce the number of migrant worker in the UK appears to be the driving force of many of the changes being made.
As a result, the obligations upon licensed sponsors become greater and this area is therefore becoming increasingly complex and difficult for employers to navigate. Employer sponsors can however expect that in the coming year their obligations in respect of employing migrant workers will be ramped up, as will the expectations upon them in preventing illegal working.
For more information please visit our Business Immigration page or phone Gemma Hill on 01604 463309 or click here to email Gemma.