Sponsorship reforms in 2021
Reforms from 2022 onwards
Global Business Mobility Route
On 26 August 2021, the Home Office released a sponsorship roadmap document. This details process and technology improvements for sponsors from the fourth quarter of 2021 to the first quarter of 2024.
The roadmap(1) focuses on the sponsorship system for workers. Details on reforms to student sponsorship are expected to be made available in a separate document at a later date.
The benefits of these reform measures will be immediately obvious for sponsors, for whom the existing processes are cumbersome and costly to administer. The sponsor management system, which has been in place since 2008, is also limited in functionality and is need of replacement.
The IT transformation piece of the work is ambitious and complex, so will need to be thoroughly tested by limited groups initially before being extended to all users. Depending on the testing outcomes, it is possible that the time-frames outlined below may need to be revised.
It is however encouraging that businesses and other key stakeholders will be engaged throughout the design and delivery process, and can expect to receive regular communications on progress.
The Home Office's planned sponsorship reforms in 2021 are threefold.
Firstly, the sponsorship process will be accelerated through reviewing and simplifying the documentary evidence required to become a licensed sponsor.
Secondly, the final quarter of 2021 will see sponsor experience improvements, including a new bespoke support service for small and micro businesses, a review of sponsorship system fees and the launch of an enhanced Skilled Worker eligibility checking tool.
Thirdly, an inter-departmental salary check process will be piloted with HMRC from the final quarter of 2021.
From 2022 to the first quarter of 2024, the Home Office intends to substantially reduce processing times, simplify the application process by re-using government-held information and modernising sponsorship IT systems.
Improvements for customers
Service standards will be reviewed and improved by Spring 2022. Research will be undertaken to ensure that small or medium-sized companies are not deterred from accessing sponsorship arrangements. Sponsor licence renewal patterns will also be reformed, perhaps removing the requirement to renew every four years, and the system will generally be simplified.
All customers will benefit from the launch of a modernised sponsorship IT system which is set to be rolled out on a limited, phased basis from mid-2022 to early 2023.
The first service, "Sponsor a Visa" will be available from mid-2022 and will allow the worker to access a partly pre-populated visa application form once the details of their role have been approved.
The second service, "Manage a Licence" will launch by the end of 2022. This will be an improved sponsor management system for post-licence activities, including better functionality for notifying sponsor changes, a dashboard of sponsored migrants and in-built status and further action prompts.
The third service, "Become a Sponsor" is scheduled for implementation by early 2023. This will incorporate automated data validation checks into the sponsor licence application process, reducing evidence requirements and casework times, at the same time as minimising the potential for abuse.
The Home Office continues to emphasise the importance of compliance. Compliance visits will still be a feature of the new arrangements, and the Home Office will still have the power to impose sanctions in the case of breaches, such as conditions or limits on recruitment, managed action plans, or sponsor licence suspension and revocation.
Global Business Mobility Route
The Home Office proposes to launch a new Global Business Mobility route from Spring 2022, following a review of the Intra-Company and Representative of Overseas Business routes. The sponsorship improvements planned in the roadmap will be applied to this route.
For further information on this topic please contact Andrew Osborne, Supinder Singh Sian or Sophie Hunter at Lewis Silkin by telephone (+44 20 7074 8000) or email ([email protected]m, [email protected] or [email protected]). The Lewis Silkin website can be accessed at www.lewissilkin.com.
(1) Further information is available here.