Business Immigration has never been so relevant to so many businesses in the UK. The end of free movement for EEA nationals with the expiry of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020, and the extension of the points based immigration system to both EEA and non-EEA nationals from January 2021, mean that employers who have previously never needed to engage with immigration requirements may well find they have to do so in the future. Businesses now require a sponsor licence to recruit individuals from anywhere outside the UK (other than Ireland), which represents a major shift from the previous position under which recruitment from within the EEA was not subject to immigration controls.
A new points based immigration system has now been introduced, which applies to all non-UK migrant workers, including those from the EEA (other than Ireland). The extension of the points based system to EEA nationals represents a significant constraint on previously unfettered movement of workers between the UK and EEA. However, for businesses in other parts of the world, the new system may actually make it considerably easier to move staff to the UK due to a relaxation of some of the eligibility requirements for UK work visas.
UK businesses seeking to recruit non-UK staff will need to familiarise themselves with the new rules and rapidly adjust to the changes if they are to remain compliant with domestic immigration requirements, while preserving their chances of securing the best talent and seamlessly moving their staff between jurisdictions to meet operational demands.
At Walker Morris, we have a dedicated Business Immigration Team with specialists in this area who have first-hand experience of helping employers navigate the complex processes of obtaining sponsor licences, sponsoring migrant workers and obtaining individual visas. We also regularly advise on all immigration aspects of corporate transactions, including assisting with post-transaction notification requirements to the Home Office. Our recent experience includes:
- advising Premier League and EFL clubs in respect of player and coaching staff immigration requirements;
- applying for Governing Body Endorsements from The Football Association for players;
- managing the Tier 2 sponsor licence of one of the world’s largest restaurant chains;
- securing the sponsor licence of a client which was threatened with revocation following an unannounced audit by the Home Office;
- successfully obtaining a representative of an overseas business visa to facilitate the establishment of a UK presence for a major US insurance provider; and
- advising on all aspects of the impact of Brexit on existing workforces and future recruitment plans.
Our business immigration services include:
Immigration Compliance and Preventing Illegal Working
All employers are required to verify their workforce’s right to work in the UK. Failure to carry out the prescribed checks carries the risk of civil penalties of up to £20,000 per illegal worker, as well as potential criminal sanctions. We help employers get the required policies and procedures in place to ensure they are not inadvertently employing illegal workers, and advise on the appropriate steps if they discover they might be.
EU Settlement Scheme
EA nationals who were already in the UK on 31 December 2020 have until 30 June 2021 to make an application under the EU Settlement Scheme in order to preserve their rights to remain living and working in the UK beyond this date. Businesses with a high proportion of EEA workers in their UK operations, or EEA workers in business critical roles, will have a vested interest in facilitating applications to ensure that such individuals do not become illegal workers, and we can assist with this process.
In an increasingly globalised marketplace, the ability to recruit the finest talent from anywhere in the world is essential to retaining a competitive edge. Whether a business needs to fill a permanent position, or temporarily transfer an employee from an international group company, it needs to have its house in order including obtaining a sponsor licence from the Home Office. The extension of the sponsorship regime to recruits from the EEA from January 2021 (other than those with an alternative basis for working) means many employers who did not previously require a licence will now do so. We regularly assist clients with applying for sponsor licences and the stringent process for sponsoring individual migrant workers, including ensuring the relevant skills and salary thresholds are satisfied.
Being a licensed sponsor comes with onerous responsibilities and obligations, including establishing and maintaining adequate internal reporting and compliance procedures. We help employers navigate all of their responsibilities as a sponsor.
Routes of Entry
We advise on the most appropriate route of entry into the UK for staff usually based at an overseas establishment, which may include using the visitor route if the purpose of the visit is to undertake certain permitted activities. We guide individuals through the entry clearance process and prepare documentation required to maximise the chances of successfully gaining entry into the UK.
Businesses who are licensed sponsors can expect a Home Office audit of their immigration compliance at any time (including through unannounced visits). If an employer has been notified of an impending audit, or simply wants to be prepared, we can help by undertaking a “mock audit” to check whether HR systems comply with legal requirements and best practice, and provide practical advice if they fall short.
Upskilling your Staff
Managers or staff responsible for immigration compliance within their organisations often benefit from a refresher on their company’s responsibilities under immigration legislation. This includes the nominated “key personnel” under the sponsor licence who are responsible for the management of the licence. We can put together a bespoke training package to give those making critical recruitment and management decisions the knowledge they need to protect the business from the risk of employing illegal workers or falling foul of sponsorship obligations.