Kevin goes for gold on BBC Radio 2’s PopMaster Quiz!

Kevin Carlin, Client Services Manager at UKvisas.co.uk

 

Huge congratulations to our client services manager, Kevin Carlin, on securing the highest possible score on BBC Radio 2’s PopMaster quiz with Ken Bruce this morning. With a score of 39, Kevin has now qualified to take part in the Champions League PopMaster quiz in 2020, when he’ll go head to head with previous winners to decide the ultimate PopMaster Champion of Champions!

 

Expanding the Shortage Occupation List won’t halt Britain’s recruitment crisis, warns UKVisas.co.uk

According to a report by the British Chamber of Commerce, three quarters of UK businesses are struggling to fill vacant roles in their organisations. The second Quarterly Recruitment Outlook for 2019 shows that while 53% of 6,000 businesses polled attempted to hire new employees, 73% of them found it difficult to successfully recruit for these roles.

The report places the blame on a lack of skilled candidates, and with Brexit still on the cards, the situation is only likely to get worse. If EU nationals become subject to the same UK Visa restrictions as other overseas candidates, the pool of freely available qualified talent will become even more limited. The situation has wider implications for our economy, and a solution must be found within the next few months if UK businesses are to continue to operate effectively.

As a response to the growing crisis, the UK government has announced a radical revision of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). The list defines jobs that employers can offer to migrants without first checking local labour availability, and its purpose is to expedite recruitment for roles that are traditionally difficult to fill.

In the past, the types of roles on the list were considered specialist, but the latest additions include more commonplace occupations such as IT professionals, nurses, and social workers, further indication that the government has acknowledged the skills shortage is affecting areas of the jobs market that were previously considered well serviced.

The news that the SOL has been expanded will be welcomed by UK employers, but this measure alone is not enough to avoid an impending national recruitment crisis.

While the number of occupations on the list has risen dramatically, the 20,700 cap on the number of migrant workers that can enter the UK each year has not. When this limit has been reached, UK firms will be unable to employ any more overseas workers for the rest of the year, regardless of whether their occupations are on the SOL or not.

Our Managing Director, Jamie Bryant, comments: “The reason for the unchanged cap may be due to the government’s pledge to reduce net migration, but this is at odds with the realities of the situation; until a domestic solution to the skills shortage can be found, UK businesses must be able to rely on overseas workers to fill positions.”

“The government needs to acknowledge this and raise the annual cap on migrant workers accordingly. Until they do, it will only be a matter of time before Britain’s businesses, and therefore its residents, suffer the consequences of understaffing.”

If you have any questions about the SOL and how it may affect your business, contact our team of UK immigration experts for advice.

Six top reasons why UK visa applications get rejected

Every year, thousands of UK visa applications are rejected by the Home Office as a result of mistakes made either by the applicant or their sponsor. Something as seemingly trivial as submitting a photograph in the wrong format can lead to the application being rejected and the process having to be started again.

Has the government made the process deliberately difficult? Possibly. Considering its pledge to reduce net migration, this could indeed be the case, but one thing is for certain – for those responsible for the recruitment and employment of overseas workers in their organisations, the prospect of having a visa application refused should be a major cause for concern.

The application process is far from straightforward, requiring in-depth knowledge of the immigration rules and complicated documentation. For small and medium-sized businesses without their own dedicated immigration teams, the time and subsequent cost involved in securing working visas for employees is significant, and a rejected application can have further serious financial implications.

To help demonstrate the wide range of potential pitfalls, here are some of the most common reasons why UK visa applications are rejected:

1. Problems with Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)

Employers need to issue a valid Certificate of Sponsorship, or CoS, if they’re to employ an overseas worker legally. Assigning an incorrect or invalid CoS to a prospective employee could lead to the application being rejected or, even if approved, a potential fine of up to £20,000 for the employer, and the loss of their sponsor licence for employing a worker illegally.

2. Failure to carry out Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT)

Before they can hire a Tier 2 visa worker, employers may need to show they were unable to find a suitable worker from within the UK. Failure to meet the requirements of the RLMT may result in the application being rejected or their subsequent removal from the UK if identified during a UKVI compliance visit.

3. Inadequate supporting documentation

Supporting documents with missing or incomplete information or that are incorrectly formatted are a common reason why visa applications are rejected.

4. Incorrect SOC code

Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes are used to define the skill and salary level for occupations. Assign the wrong code and the application could be delayed or rejected.

5. Insufficient maintenance funds

The application will be rejected if the applicant can’t show they’ve enough money to support themselves when they arrive in the UK.

6. Mistakes in the application form

Something as simple as an incorrectly typed digit in a contact number can be enough to result in rejection.

As you can tell from this by no means comprehensive list, the ways in which a visa application can fail are many and varied, and the potential penalties can be devastating for a business. To avoid falling into one of these traps, we recommend securing the services of an immigration expert to take care of the application process for you.

At UK Visas, our team of specialists manages over 400 employee visa applications every year. We have the knowledge and experience to ensure applications are correctly prepared and submitted, and provide a full No Win, No Fee guarantee on all PBS visa applications.

So don’t leave it to luck; to arrange a free consultation with our team and learn how we can help your organisation with its immigration process, contact us now

Return of Post-Study work visas confirmed by HM Government

International students will be allowed to stay in the UK for two years after graduating, reviving the Tier 1 (Post-study) visa that was shelved by the Home Office back in 2012.  Almost 400,000 Tier 1 PSW visas were granted in each of the five year between 2008 and 2012.

Effective from the 2020/21 university intake, those who enrol on undergraduate, postgraduate or PhD courses in the UK will be able to stay in the country to work or look for work for two years after they graduate.

However, unlike the route which closed in 2012, this new route will also include safeguards to ensure only genuine, credible students are eligible.  Previously the post-study route allowed students to find any job, regardless of the skills required.

This announcement follows the creation of a new fast-track visa route for scientists and the removal of the limit on PHD students moving into the skilled work visa route, which collectively aim to cement the UK as a science superpower and a world-leader in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) sector.

There are over 450,000 foreign students in the UK, generating £20 billion per year through education exports, and research shows that they tend to earn considerably more than their UK counterparts once they leave university.

However, the four months “extra time” currently granted to Tier 4 students forces many to leave the UK as they do not have sufficient time or cannot demand a high enough salary to qualify for a sponsored Tier 2 work visa.

Dependant on the restrictions placed on eligibility, this additional two years should prove extremely popular and help make the UK education system more attractive to overseas students once again.

UK labour: new Shortage Occupation List proposals

According to the Office for National Statistics, the first quarter of 2019 saw the number of EU nationals employed in Britain hit an all-time high of almost 2.4 million. Despite ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit, UK businesses have continued to invest in recruitment, creating 100,000 new jobs in the first three months of the year, and EU nationals have helped them to fill those positions. However, impending changes to immigration rules are almost certain to affect this trend and create challenges for UK recruiters.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, as of October 31st, EU nationals are likely to become subject to the same restrictions other overseas nationalities currently face when seeking employment in Britain. This means UK businesses who wish to continue employing EU workers post-Brexit are likely to need to hold a valid sponsor licence, and ensure sponsored applicants obtain a valid working visa.

The additional complexity of the recruitment process could lead to UK employers experiencing difficulties in filling vacancies. However, one measure that seeks to avoid this situation is the recent update to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL).

The list defines occupations that are especially under-recruited, and therefore subject to exceptions from immigration employment laws. In anticipation of the possible impact Brexit could have for UK recruiters, the government engaged the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to review the SOL for the first time since 2013. Published in May 2019, the proposed list includes the additions of such diverse occupations as veterinarians, web designers, and secondary school teachers.

Employers recruiting for roles on the SOL can benefit from the following advantages:

  • No need to pass the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), which shows an attempt has been made to recruit domestically. This makes a saving for employers in terms of vacancy advertising and recruitment time
  • These jobs are automatically granted a high level of points in the visa system, so a migrant cannot be turned down for sponsorship, even if the annual cap on the Tier 2 scheme has been reached
  • The job does not need to meet the minimum salary threshold required for settlement after five years
  • Visa application fees are lower if the occupation is on the SOL, making it more attractive to foreign applicants and their dependants

If you are involved in recruitment and want to find out more about how Brexit and the changes to the SOL may affect the process, the team at UK Visas can help.

Contact us now to arrange a free consultation and find out how we can support your organisation in recruiting from outside the UK.

EU Settlement Scheme – keeping your homegrown talent

What is the EU Settlement scheme, how does it affect EU workers in Britain, and why should employers take notice?

The EU Settlement Scheme is a government programme that allows EU, EEA or Swiss nationals currently living in the UK to apply to remain here following the country’s exit from the European Union. Successful applicants who have lived here for five years or more will be given settled status, while those who have been here for under five years will receive pre-settled status.

It’s imperative that those responsible for the recruitment and management of overseas workers in their companies are aware of the scheme and what is required during the application process. While it’s not yet clear what will happen to EU employees in Britain without a registered status, it’s safe to assume they will no longer be able to work in the country once the deadline has passed. Along with causing disruption for both the worker and their employer, there may also be legal ramifications for both parties.

What can I do as an employer to keep my EU employees?

Firstly, there are a couple of dates for UK employers and their EU employees to be aware of. If Britain and the EU agree a Brexit deal by the 31st October deadline, then the final date for registering for settled status will be 30th June 2021. However, if no deal is reached, the date moves forward to 31st December 2020. The government’s website explains the process here: https://www.gov.uk/eusettledstatus

As an employer, there are a number of steps you can take to prepare

1. Undertake an audit to identify which of your employees are affected
2. Make use of the factsheets, posters and videos that the government has provided to raise awareness in your workforce
3. Check the expiry date of your Tier 2 sponsor licence. This system is likely to be extended to EU nationals after 2020
4. Make a diary note to conduct Right to Work checks in 2020 in order for your business to remain compliant with new immigration rules
5. Encourage your employees to review the options open to them. For instance, if they are eligible for Permanent Residence it might be more appropriate to apply for that instead of the EU Settlement Scheme

If you’re concerned about the possible pitfalls of the process, the UK Visas immigration team offers expert assistance. Let us help you by:

• Reviewing the status of your EU employees and their family members
• Assisting with applications
• Advising employees of their options
• Performing compliance reviews
• Examining your Right to Work checks and providing advice on best practice post-Brexit

Contact us now to arrange a free consultation and find out how we can support your organisation and assist your EU employees in securing their long-term status in the UK.

SPONSOR DUTIES: CHANGE OF CIRCUMSTANCE AND WHEN TO REPORT

You must inform the Home Office within 10 working days about the following:

1. If your sponsored migrant does not turn up to work on their first day. You must report the reason, for example, sickness, or a missed flight.

2. If your sponsored migrant worker is absent from their job for more than 10 consecutive working days without your permission. Your report must be made within 10 working days of the 10th day of their absence.

3. If a sponsored migrant’s employment ceases earlier than originally intended. You must report their last address and contact number, as well as the name of their new employer, if appropriate.

4. If your migrant worker’s visa status changes, but they are going to carry on working for you (for instance, if they switch to a partner visa from their original Tier 2 sponsored status).

5. If there are significant changes in the particulars of your sponsored migrant’s job. For example, they gain a promotion; take maternity or adoption leave; change their job title; or their salary becomes markedly different from the level that was set on their Certificate of Sponsorship.

6. If the sponsored migrant’s job location changes. For instance, they continue to work for you but are on secondment to a different branch of your business.

7. If your sponsored migrant worker breaks the condition of their leave to remain in the UK for whatever reason.

In addition, you must also inform the Home Office about the following changes to your company’s role as registered sponsor:

1. If you sell all or part of your business, are involved in a takeover or merger or stop trading altogether.

2. If you have used the services of any third party or intermediary to help you recruit your migrant staff, whether in the UK or abroad.

3. Any personal differences to your licence, for instance, a change in address, or in the name of the key contact or authorisation officer.

Our dedicated team of UK immigration specialists will ensure that you maintain ongoing compliance. Should we identify any issues in regard to non-compliance, our staff will work with you to improve your processes. For more information on how we can support you, contact us.

Home Office – “Sponsorship is a privilege, not a right.”

On 17th July 2019, the Home Office added an Addendum to their Tier 2 & 5 – Guidance for employers 03/19 which applies with immediate effect to all Tier 2 & 5 sponsors, including all current and future applications seeking to apply for or renew a sponsor licence.

The Home Office states that it “will not license organisations whose actions and behaviour are non-conducive to the public good”. The non-exhaustive list of examples includes:

•             fostering hatred or inter-community division;

•             fomenting, justifying or glorifying terrorism; and/or;

•             rejecting the rights of, or discriminating against, other groups or individuals on the basis of their gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, race, religious belief (including lack of belief), or any other protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.

Compliance action can be taken against those who have engaged in the above behaviour or actions, which could result in the refusal to grant/renew a licence or the revocation of an existing licence.

It remains to be seen how the Home Office will implement these changes. Previously, it has been seen that the term ‘non-conducive to public good’ has been applied in non-terrorism-related immigration cases, which includes discrepancies with the HMRC.

Although the above issues need to be tackled in the workforce in general and the wider community, it will be interesting to see how the Home Office tackles these and whether a FTSE 100 company will face the same repercussions as a small business. 

How HR can prepare for changes to immigration post-Brexit

HR managers, is your company Brexit-ready?

As Britain prepares to leave the European Union, it’s important for UK companies employing EU workers to ensure they’re ready for the changes that will follow. Those responsible for recruitment should be aware of these changes and understand what they mean for both the company’s current EU employees and its future recruitment strategy. 

Some steps that can be taken to ensure a smooth transition for businesses and their employees include:

Keeping your current EU workers

Firstly, it’s important to ensure that any EU, EEA or Swiss nationals currently employed by your company can continue to stay in the UK after 30th June 2021 (if a deal is not agreed, the deadline will be 31st December 2020). The government’s EU Settlement Scheme gives these people the opportunity to apply to continue living in the UK following its exit from the European Union. Applicants who have been here for five years or more will receive ‘settled’ status, while those who have lived here for less than five years will get ‘pre-settled’ status.

The process is free, and the government has provided a step-by-step set of instructions on its website to guide applicants. HR officers should familiarise themselves with the process so that they can advise and support any of their company’s employees who need to apply. You can visit the site here.

Preparing to recruit from outside the EU

Once Brexit has taken place, the process of hiring workers from the EU will become more difficult. As a result, companies may choose to start recruiting people from further afield, although they will need to prepare for this shift in focus.

According to a recent survey, 76% of businesses have no contingency funds for future recruitment outside the EU. The cost, in terms of both money and time, of sponsorship licences and Tier 2 Visas means companies must determine whether they can afford to hire from abroad, as well as identify the resources necessary to carry out their recruitment plans.

What is a Tier 2 (General) Visa and why do workers need them?

Tier 2 (General) Visas are the most common type of visa. They apply to skilled workers earning £30,000 a year and upwards, and require sponsorship from the company offering employment. Proof of sponsorship comes in the form of a certificate of sponsorship (CoS).

Once Britain has left the EU, EU citizens without settled or pre-settled UK status may be subject to the same rules that apply to people from the rest of the world, meaning they will need to apply for a Tier 2 Visa if they intend to work in the UK.

How much does an overseas Tier 2 Visa application cost for a single applicant on a 3-year contract?

  • Application fee – £610
  • Immigration health charge – £1,200
  • Immigration skills charge (per year of contract) £1,092 to £3,000 (depending on whether your company is categorised as large or small)
  • Certificate of Sponsorship £199
  • Priority visa service £220

Due to the cost, complexity, and potential pitfalls of the visa application process, recruiters would be wise to work with an expert in the field. At UK Visas, our team guides companies through the hurdles of bringing staff into the UK, and facilitates the movement of employees globally.

Our experience allows us to assess eligibility quickly and to spot issues before they develop into problems, providing clients with practical and commercial solutions.

Our services include:

  • Advising on all aspects of the points-based system and assisting with the sponsor registration process
  • Work and business routes, including those for sponsored workers, business visitors, permitted paid engagement visitors, investors, entrepreneurs, high value migrants and representatives of overseas businesses
  • European applications such as family permits and permanent residence, and other applications including dependent family members and British nationality
  • Prevention of illegal working including audits of right to work documents, staff training, hotline services and objections to fines
  • Challenging decisions via administrative review

If you need help understanding how Brexit will affect your company’s EU nationals and overseas recruitment, our friendly and knowledgeable team is ready to answer your questions. Get in touch now to arrange a free consultation.

New charges for 2019-20

Having announced earlier in the year that our fees would remain unchanged for 2019, the additional work and time involved managing Tier 2 visa applications here in the UK has now become more onerous even than managing out-of-country applications – which we charged a higher figure for previously.

It is with reluctance therefore that we have had to amend our Tier 2 visa fees for in-country applications to match those for out-of-country applications, so all Tier 2 visas will, with effect from 1 June 2019, be charged at £1150 + VAT.

However, we have also decided to reduce our fee for dependants from £350 + VAT to £250 + VAT, so for a family of three the cost will remain the same as before.

And additionally, as all service options involve the same amount of work for us now, our fee of £1150 + VAT will apply whether clients opt for standard, priority or super priority service.

Changes to UK based Tier 2 visa applications

Procedures for submitting Tier 2 visa applications in the UK have become far more complex and time-consuming since the appointment of the Home Office’s commercial partner Sopra Steria to run the UKVCAS service points around the UK.

Applicants submitting their applications inside the UK no longer have the option to send in their passports and BRP cards by post. Instead all UK based applicants must upload electronic copies of their supporting documents.

Although this means that applicants are able to retain their passports whilst their application is being processed, it does not mean that they are free to travel.  They must remain in the UK until they have received a decision on their application and their new BRP cards.

 

If the applicant were to leave the country after their application has been submitted and they have enrolled their biometrics but before a decision has been made, their application would be deemed to be withdrawn.

Unfortunately, the changes introduced also mean that applicants are no longer able to enrol their biometrics at a local Post Office. The biometric enrolment fee of £19.20 is now included in the cost of the Tier 2 visa at the point when it is submitted and all applicants must attend an appointment at one of the UKVCAS service points run by the Home Office’s commercial partner, Sopra Steria.

These appointments have to be booked in advance and at many of the service points, there are additional fees ranging from £60-£260 per applicant depending on the time and location of the appointment.

Free appointments are only available at the six core service points in:

  • Belfast
  • Birmingham
  • Cardiff
  • Croydon
  • Glasgow
  • Manchester

 

However, these free appointments have to take place between core hours of 10am and 4pm from Monday to Friday and usually have to be booked at least two weeks in advance.

If the applicants want to attend an appointment at one of these sites with less than two weeks’ notice or outside of core hours, there will be an additional charge of £100 per applicant.

There are another 50 enhanced service points dotted around the country, which offer appointments during the week between the core hours of 10am and 4pm at a cost of £60 per applicant. If the applicants require an appointment at one of these enhanced service points at short notice or outside of core hours, the additional charge is £125 per applicant.

Appointments can also be booked in the Premium Lounge at 20 Mark Lane, London EC3R 7AF and are usually available up to 28 days in advance. However, there is a fee of £200 per applicant for appointments at the Premium Lounge during core hours of Monday to Friday between 10am and 4pm.

For urgent appointments at the Premium Lounge or for appointments outside of core hours, the additional fee rises to £260 per applicant.

 

The processing time for a decision on an application only starts from the date of the appointment to enrol biometrics:

  • With the standard service costing £723.20 per applicant, most people will get a decision on their application within 8 weeks of attending their biometrics appointment.
  • With the priority service costing £1223.20 per applicant, most people will get a decision on their application within 5 working days of attending their biometrics appointment.
  • With the super priority service costing £1523.20 per person, most people get a decision on their application on the next working day after attending their biometrics appointment.

Please note that applicants are required to choose which service they want for their application at the point of submission, but they must do so before they have booked their biometrics appointment and once an application has been submitted it cannot be amended. So even if the applicant chooses to submit their application using the super priority service, there is no guarantee that they will be able to get a biometrics appointment straight away.

Changes to the minimum salary requirements

There have been a few changes to minimum salaries for roles at RQF Level 6 and above.

As is usual at this time of the year the Home Office have made changes to the minimum salary requirements for “New Entrants” – those under 26 or graduates switching in-country – and “Experienced Workers”. However these changes are generally slight, and some have even fallen. Typical examples are:

  • Civil Engineers: NE: £25,700 up to £27,500. EW: £31,600 up to £33,300
  • Quantity Surveyors: NE: £23,400 down to £22,600. EW: £30,400 up to £31,800.
  • IT Project Managers: NE: no change at £31,200. EW: £36,000 up to £39,900
  • Veterinarians: NE:£25,200 up to £27,100. EW £32,300 up to £36,300
  • Sales Accounts and BDM’s: £25,100 up to £26,500. EW: £33,300 up to £34,800

Please note that these figures are based on a 39-hour week. All of the new minimum salary requirements can be found in Appendix J of the Tier 2 immigration rules by going to this link:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-appendix-j-codes-of-practice-for-skilled-work

Renewing CoS allocations for this Financial Year

For those clients on Auto Renewal (about half of you) your new allocation for this year can be seen on the SMS – go to sponsor summary and scroll down to Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (ICT) CoS and the new number available will be shown – this is usually equal to the number issued last year.  If you didn’t issue any, or may need more this year, then we can always request additional CoS for you.

For those not on automatic renewal, a few sponsors have been allocated one or two but generally most are starting the new year off without any.  But, as stated above, if you may need any this year, then we can always request additional CoS for you. We usually need to provide detailed reasons why a CoS is required, eg: the vacancy details and/or candidate details.

Remember of course that for all out-of-country applications, we still have to request restricted CoS at the monthly panel.

Latest information regarding BREXIT

The future immigration arrangements for EU citizens and their family members will be set out in UK Immigration Rules as is the case now for non-EU nationals. The proposed visa routes will be opened in autumn 2020, to enable those who wish to come to the UK to apply in good time. (Read more)

So effectively, there will be a single route which gives access to highly skilled and skilled workers from all countries. Those coming to the UK on this route will need an employer to sponsor them and applicants may add their spouse/partner and children as dependants.

Currently there is a cap on numbers coming into the UK and this will be lifted along with the need for a resident labour market test. The Home Office are also claiming they will make the new system as straightforward and light touch as possible, and low cost to employers.

It also looks likely that Tier 5 YMS visa holders will be able to switch into Tier 2 “in-country” rather than having to go home to apply.

The new skilled route will include workers with intermediate level skills, at RQF 3-5 level (A level or equivalent) as well as graduate and post-graduate, as the MAC recommended. The MAC recommended retaining the minimum salary threshold at £30,000 and the Home Office say they will engage with businesses and employers as to what salary threshold should be set.

There will NOT be a route for low skilled workers although the Home Office recognises the challenges faced by these employers, particularly in sectors like construction and social care, who would find it difficult immediately to adapt. They are proposing, as a transitional measure, to institute a time-limited route for temporary short-term workers. This route will allow people to come for a maximum of 12 months, with a cooling-off period of a further 12 months to prevent people effectively working in the UK permanently.

Although the Home Office do not intend to open sectoral labour schemes, they may consider running one for seasonal agricultural work, and so will be running a small-scale pilot scheme for agricultural workers in 2019.

 

For EEA nationals already here in the UK their situation is much more secure and they can apply for either settled or pre-settled status depending on how long they have been in the UK.

Come 29th March 2019, or later if the deadline is extended, all EEA nationals who wish to remain here after 31 December 2020 must apply for “pre-settled status” document – if they have been here for less than five years – or “settled status” document if they have been here over five years.  This document shows they have had the right to live and work here prior to 29th March 2019 ie: before Brexit.

Your EEA staff who have been here for over five years already can, if they wish, apply for “permanent residency” now.  This would entitle them to apply for British citizenship 12 months later, but they may still have to apply for a settled status document to accompany their application.

Here is a link to the EU settlement scheme employer toolkit, which you may find useful:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/eu-settlement-scheme-employer-toolkit?utm_source=7057ffdc-5bae-4f45-8db1-a4b98b87fc26&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate

New charges for 2018-19

No changes to our fees but Health surcharge doubles (Read more)

We are pleased to advise you that our fees will remain unchanged for the 2019 calendar year.  Although some elements of our work have become more complicated our determination to provide an excellent service at competitive prices remains a hugely important driver for us as a business.

Home Office charges usually change on 6 April, and are not made public until the very last minute, but there has been one major change: the Health Surcharge for Tier 2 applicants doubled on 8 January, from £200 p.a. to £400 p.a.

The Home Office have also recently opened a number of UKVCAS centres across the UK. These centres are managed by the Home Office’s commercial partner, Sopra Steria and are replacing the Premium Service Centres, which previously allowed applicants to receive a decision on the same day.

Appointments at the Premium Lounge in Central London are usually available at short notice but attract an additional payment of at least £200 per applicant. There are a further six core locations in Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Croydon, Glasgow and Manchester offering appointments during office hours, but applicants may have to wait up to 24 hours (or slightly longer in some cases) for a decision. Appointments are also available at evenings, weekends and at short notice (on the day/next day) with additional prices starting from £100.

Sopra Steria are also offering enhanced user-pay services in 50 local libraries, with prices starting from £60. In these locations, applicants can submit their biometrics and upload copies of their documents, rather than sending originals to the Home Office. Please note though that even if the applicants retain their passports after visiting one of these centres, they must not travel until they have received a decision on their application.

Salary increases to satisfy ILR requirements under question

The Home Office are on the look-out for sudden increases to salaries where these neatly satisfy ILR requirements.

The minimum salary requirement for ILR is currently £35,500 p.a., and this increases again in April to £35,800 p.a. Some employers, whose staff fall under this limit, increase salaries just in time to satisfy the ILR requirement, but the Home Office are now looking more closely at these increases. They may ask to see appraisal records to show how salaries are reviewed and any criteria applied to justify such increases.

So if you employ staff whose salaries fall well under the £35,800 limit, you may wish to consider increasing these in stages over time to avoid these questions being asked.  Needless to say, any increases must be appropriate to the work the sponsored worker is carrying out.

Employer Right-to-Work checks

All sponsors must ensure that all non-EEA staff or potential recruits have current visas.

If an employee has applied for a new visa or an extension to their current one, and their current visa expires whilst their case is under consideration, it is the employers’ responsibility to check with the Home Office that they can continue to employ that person.

This can be done by logging on to https://www.gov.uk/view-right-to-work If the result is inconclusive it will lead you to a second link which is the employer checking service where further checks can be made: https://www.gov.uk/employee-immigration-employment-status

This enables UK employers to confirm whether a non-EEA national holding either a biometric residence permit or biometric residence card has a current right to work in the UK and whether they are subject to any restrictions.

From the end of January 2019, employers will be able to request either the online check or the existing document-based check; online checks will be a voluntary option whilst migrants and employers develop familiarity with the new service. The digital status checking services will provide a quick and secure verification of status.

Reminders to Sponsors – Keep your records up to date

Updating your records

All sponsors should ensure their records are kept up to date, but here is a three-point reminder for you.

At least once a year, you should ensure that you ask to see all non-EEA workers passports and visas/BRP cards. Please check these are valid and photocopy them (passport outer cover and details page and both sides of the BRP card (or visa in their passport if they still do not have a BRP card).  Then sign and date the photocopies and place on their personnel file.

Check to see if any sponsored workers’ roles or salaries/working hours have changed or if they are no longer working for you. If so please let us know at info@ukvisas.co.uk so we can update the SMS for you or advise you if the change is so significant that a new visa may be required.  Remember, sponsored workers can only carry out the work stated on their CoS.

Please let us know as soon as possible if:

  1. your office address is changing.
  2. sponsored staff are changing their work address (eg: those working at client sites).
  3. your Authorising Officer is leaving or going on maternity leave.
  4. your business has changed its name.
  5. your business has been acquired.
  6. your business has acquired another business.

Renewing CoS allocations for next Financial Year

Sponsors that are not on automatic annual renewal will receive monthly e-mails asking them to submit their requests for a CoS allocation.

Annual CoS allocations are for unrestricted CoS only, so can only be issued to people already in the UK, i.e current employees requiring an extension to their visas or new recruits, who are either graduates switching from Tier 4 student visas or those already working for another sponsor on a Tier 2 General visa.

UK Visas will go through every client’s list of sponsored workers over the next few weeks and request CoS for any whose visas expire between April 2019 and April 2020.

Please note too that you can still ask for additional CoS after 6 April. We just need the name, nationality and DoB of each applicant and, if they are new recruits, full details of the role, salary and resident test details if relevant.

For those clients on Auto Renewal, we have to wait until 6 April and see what you have been allocated and then, if necessary, request extra CoS for you.

High Skilled Workers to trump EU workers

Brexit will no doubt have a great impact on the business immigration sector.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC)’s long-awaited report on the effect of European migration to the UK has been published last month.

According to reports, the MAC does not see ‘compelling reasons’ to give EU citizens any preferential treatment over non-EU citizens. Recommendations are made largely to loosen the Tier 2 system itself and have a more open policy like in countries such as Canada.

Below is a summary of the key recommendations for work migration post-Brexit

1. Making it easier for higher-skilled workers to migrate to the UK than lower-skilled workers.

2. No preference for EU citizens

3. Abolish the cap on the number of migrants under Tier 2 (General).

4. Tier 2 (General) to be open to all jobs at RQF3 and above.

5. Maintain existing salary thresholds for all migrants in Tier 2.

6. Retain but review the Immigration Skills Charge.

7. Consider abolition of the Resident Labour Market Test. If not abolished, extend the numbers of migrants who are exempt through lowering the salary required for exemption.

 

However, if all foreign migrants are bought into the same system then employers will need to become extra vigilant as risk of civil penalties faced by employers will increase significantly.

Hiring costs will increase and if medium skilled jobs are also included as more businesses will require to get on the sponsor licence register meaning increased administrative burden on organisations and a significant effect on businesses which have previously not had any engagement with the wonderful immigration system.

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No Win No Fee Visa Guarantee logo

UK VISAS NO WIN NO FEE PROMISE

We provide a ‘No Win – No Fee’ guarantee for all points-based system visa applications unless expressly stated at the time of appointment. We will guarantee our service for these applications by offering a full refund on our fee should it be unsuccessful.

These guaranteed terms are conditional upon the client being able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Home Office that they have earned the income claimed or that they have the necessary funding in place for maintenance or are fully conversant with their business plan in the case of Tier 1 Entrepreneurs.

It also presumes that neither the applicant nor their dependants have previously come under scrutiny or been under investigation by the Home Office for any immigration matter. In order that we can do our job properly the necessary information and details required should be made available and they must genuine as well as accurate.