Monthly cap for restricted certificates reached
In June 2015 the monthly cap on restricted certificates of sponsorship was reached. These certificates are needed where a licensed sponsor wishes to recruit someone from abroad on a permanent basis. This is the first time that the monthly cap has been reached and the Home Office have turned down requests for Certificates of Sponsorship. The impact of this is likely to be that it will be harder to obtain Certificates of Sponsorship for at least the next 2 to months, but potentially for the rest of the financial year. This will not affect Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfers) or hiring people already in the UK with permission to work.
New procedure for visas from abroad
The Home Office have also introduced a new procedure for visas from abroad. This has already been introduced for applications from some countries and should apply to all visas issued after 31 July 2015. Previously, successful applicants were given a visa stamp in their passport for the entire length of their stay in the UK. This will now change and individuals will be given a 30 day entry visa and will then need to collect their permanent visa/biometric card when they arrive in the UK. Individuals can start work before they collect their biometric card but employers must ensure that they carry out a follow up right to work check at the end of the 30 day period. If the employer does not carry out this follow up check and take a copy of the biometric card, they could face enforcement action from the Home Office.
New immigration health surcharge
Another change in the introduction of a new Immigration Health Surcharge for most types of visa applications from 6 April. Now, prior to applying for a work visa, a healthcare surcharge must be paid by registering with the Home Office and paying an advance payment of £200 per year for the length of the visa. This is an additional cost to consider but does not affect Intra Company Transfers (but ICTs still need to get a health surcharge registration number otherwise the application will be delayed).
Amended list of approved English language tests
On 6 April the Home Office amended the list of approved English language tests that are acceptable for use with visa applications. Companies need to be aware of the new tests and ensure that any applicants meet the revised English language requirements. These will not apply where the individual is from a majority speaking English country or they hold a degree taught in English or they are applying for an Intra Company Transfer visa.
Home Office audit emphasis now on existing sponsor compliance issues
Finally, employers should be aware that the Home Office are switching their audit emphasis to look at existing sponsor compliance issues and there has been an increase in the number of unannounced audits of companies which hold sponsor licenses. It is important for employers to carry out their own checks to ensure internal processes are being followed and that there are no gaps in records. You can prepare for Home Office audits by:
- Regularly checking records are up to date (e.g. making sure that copies of employees' passports and copies of permission to work visas are kept).
- Regularly checking the Home Office guidance and revisiting policies (e.g. being aware of sponsorship duties such as reporting any significant changes to a migrant worker's employment contract).
- Holding mock audits.