In previous immigration updates we have outlined proposed Government plans to introduce a Highly Trusted Status (HTS) for tier 2 sponsors. We have now been informed by the UKBA that the scheme will be named 'premium sponsor' and 'SME+'.

The proposal is that premium sponsor and SME+ will be enhanced service packages available to tier 2 sponsors. Premium sponsor service will allow employers to benefit from having direct communication with an account manager from the UKBA, less documents required in support of a visa application, priority access to the Public Enquiry Office (PEO), immediate return of documents if applications are submitted by post and additional time to report migrants. To acquire premium sponsor status, the UKBA is proposing that employers will have to pay £20,000 per annum and be subject to a strict compliance test in order to access the service.

SME+ service will be aimed at small and medium size (SME) businesses that may not require premium sponsor status. SME+ attracts an annual fee of £8,000 and will also be subject to a strict compliance test. The proposed benefits include having access to a UKBA account manager, having additional time to report migrants and requiring less documents in support of a visa application.

The Government has indicated that these services are likely to be available from February 2012.