We set out a summary of the latest developments in UK immigration law.
Changes to the Sponsorship Management System (“SMS”)
From 1 October 2011 there will be changes to the SMS. This will affect the way in which applications for restricted certificates of sponsorship are made in Tier 2 General.
Transitional arrangements came into effect on the 6 September 2011 and these will remain in force until 9 October 2011 (see the link in the Resources section below for more information).
Can businesses take advantage of the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur Route)?
Where a UK business does not have a Tier 2 sponsor licence and there is a senior team member, who is not from the EEA and who will be joining the UK business as a director/partner/member and this senior team member or one or more third parties (which may be businesses and may include the employee’s group) have funds of £200,000 to invest in the business, then this route may be worth considering.
The advantages of this route are that it is quicker than the Tier 2 route (which can take 3 months or more to process) and that it could also lead to accelerated settlement in the UK.
Increase in UKBA action taking action against sponsors re the prevention of illegal working
The UKBA has stepped up its campaign against sponsors in order to prevent illegal working. Employers should ensure that their systems and processes are compliant with their obligations under the Prevention of Illegal Working legislation and their Tier 2 sponsor licence, where applicable.
Should an employer be found to be in breach of its obligations under this legislation then the employer is liable to fines of up to £10,000 per individual who does not have permission to work in the UK. The UKBA has issued civil penalties in excess of £53 million in the last 3 years.
Where the employer holds a Tier 2 sponsor licence then as a result of being in breach of its obligations the licence may be downgraded, suspended or revoked by the UKBA.
New Tier 1 Category – Exceptional Talent
On 9 August 2011 a new Tier 1 category came into effect. This new category is limited to 1,000 places between 9 August 2011 and 31 March 2012. To be eligible an applicant must be recognised, or have the potential to be recognised, as a leader in their field.
While sponsorship by employers is not required under this category, applicants will have to be recommended by one of the ‘competent bodies’. The competent bodies and the number of places they have been allocated are set out below:
- The Royal Society (300)
- The Arts Council England (300)
- The Royal Academy of Engineering (200)
- The British Academy (200)
The UK Border Agency (“UKBA”) has stated that online visa application forms only remain valid for 30 days from the date the application form was started. The UKBA will reject any application forms older than 30 days and the process must be restarted.
This could mean that applicants are putting their sponsors at risk as the rejected application forms could mean that applicants are in the UK without leave.