Anyone taking on a Tier 2 sponsor licence will enjoy the benefits of skilled labour that might otherwise not be available in the UK, but the licence also comes at a price. Under the terms of the licence the sponsoring employer takes on a series of responsibilities that the UK Borders Agency is increasingly stringent in policing.
In effect, anyone who wishes to employ staff on the basis of a Tier 2 sponsor licence must agree to act as a representative of the UK Border Agency. Any failure to meet the administrative, record keeping and reporting demands that the licence entails will quickly result in the licence being revoked and the staff employed obliged to either seek alternative visa arrangements or leave the UK.
With the quota limits in Tier 2 General Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship exceeded in June 2015 and with government insisting that they have no plans to change the limit, the current situation is less favourable to applicants for a Tier 2 sponsor licence than has previously been the case.
Priority is still being given to applicants on higher pay scales and to PhD roles but even in these instances, the overriding political imperative means that any and all applications are being particularly keenly scrutinised. With no rights to appeal in cases where the authorities judge licence holders to be in some way short of the required standards, the importance of correctly administering all aspects of the scheme - from first application through to its ongoing operation - cannot be overstated.
At the same time, the announcement that from April 2016 the minimum salary level for any employee wishing to move from a Tier 2 sponsorship visa to an indefinite leave to remain will be set at £35,000 (or the appropriate rate for their occupation) points to a practical tightening of the criteria and a tightening up of the application process. The Tier 2 sponsor licence remains a valuable means of securing appropriately qualified staff, but administratively and practically such a licence comes at an increasingly high price.