Home Office issues new guidance for sponsors
23 November 2020
The guidance replaces the Tier 2 and 5 sponsor guidance. It covers the Skilled Worker, Intra-Company Transfer and Temporary Worker routes and is intended to provide information on sponsorship when these routes are launched from 1 December 2020.
Existing Tier 2 and 5 sponsors will be automatically approved as sponsors in the equivalent new route, with their sponsor licence expiry and Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) allocation remaining as currently.
As there will be no uplift to CoS allocations, we anticipate that many sponsors may wish to make an in-year request for an additional CoS allocation. This may be needed to cover any EEA nationals, EEA national family members and any workers who may wish to switch into one of the new routes in-country before the end of the financial year, for example Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer or Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme migrants who wish to switch into the Skilled Worker route.
Structure of the new guidance
The guidance has initially been expanded from one main document into a series of five documents as follows:
- Workers and Temporary Workers – guidance for sponsors part 1: apply for a licence
- Workers and Temporary Workers – guidance for sponsors part 2: sponsor a worker – general information
- Workers and Temporary Workers – guidance for sponsors part 3: sponsor duties and compliance
- Workers and Temporary Workers – sponsor a Skilled Worker
- Workers and Temporary Workers – sponsor an Intra-Company worker
This does not include detailed guidance on each of the Temporary Work routes, so further documents are expected in the near future.
Skilled Workers – defined and undefined Certificates of Sponsorship
For the Skilled Worker category, rather than there being unrestricted and restricted Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) categories, there will now be undefined and defined CoS. Undefined CoS are for in-country applications and defined CoS are for applicants who will be making an entry clearance application from abroad.
Undefined CoS may be assigned by a sponsor immediately provided they have an available CoS allocation. Defined CoS must be requested and allocated by the Home Office on a case-by-case basis after a checking process, which should be within one working day unless the request is flagged for further checks.
Although there will be no hard numerical cap on defined CoS, the vetting process is intended to allow the Home Office to closely monitor the profile of jobs and salary levels being used to enable skilled workers from abroad to access the UK labour market, and to intervene prior to visa application stage if they identify any concerning trends.
Transitional arrangements for requested or unused Tier 2 (General) CoS
These are set out in Annex SK1, towards the end of the ‘Sponsor a Skilled Worker guidance. In general terms, the guidance confirms:
- Requested restricted CoS will be decided on 28 November 2020 and if successful, added to the sponsor’s undefined CoS allocation where the request is for Tier 4 students or student dependants switching to Skilled Worker, or defined CoS for all other applicants. These must then be upgraded by adding a sponsor note to the sponsor management system (SMS).
- Tier 2 (General) restricted CoS that have already been allocated can still be assigned from 1 December 2020 provided they were allocated less than three months ago are ‘upgraded’ by adding a sponsor note to the SMS.
- Tier 2 (General) CoS assigned before 1 December 2020 can still be used to support a Skilled Worker application provided they were assigned less than three months ago and are ‘upgraded’ by adding a sponsor note to the SMS.
The required sponsor note must include:
- The employer PAYE scheme reference number the worker will be paid under, or an explanation of why they will not be paid via PAYE
- That the worker’s salary will meet the new salary rules for the Skilled Worker category
- Relevant explanations if the worker will be relying on tradeable points scoring under the Skilled Worker route, eg for having a relevant PhD, STEM PhD or meeting the criteria for ‘new entrants’ to the labour market
Online submission of new sponsor licence application documents as standard
Appendix A to the sponsor guidance, which covers the documentation requirements for making a sponsor application, has also been updated. This now refers to the new routes as well as confirming that sponsor licence applications and supporting documentation can be submitted electronically, with the Home Office reserving the right to request originals or certified copies. This does not amount to an operational change as electronic submission has been acceptable throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, however the implementation of this on a permanent basis is a welcome development.
If you would like assistance with applying for or reviewing a sponsor licence, or with sponsoring a worker under the new routes, please contact a member of the immigration team.
Following the UK’s departure from the EU, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement sets out the shape of the ongoing future relationship between the UK and the EU and provides some degree of certainty for UK businesses.