Tier 2 sponsor licence and Tier 2 visa affected by COVID-19

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Boris Johnson Economic Recovery Speech at Dudley College of Technology, UK 30 June 2020

Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

Comments by Sanwar Ali:

Making sure that you meet all the requirements under the Tier 2 Sponsor Licence scheme is not that straightforward.  The compliance requirements are confusing and complicated.  The Sponsor Guidance is more than two hundred pages long.  The right to work checks document is about fourty pages long.  It is difficult for employers to find the time to make sure that they comply with every single requirement.  During a pandemic complying with the Sponsor Licence requirements, possibly with reduced staffing Probably if the Home Office really wanted to they could suspend or revoke the Sponsor Licence of any employer.  If they do not like you they can find a reason to do so.

Tier 2 visa employees who have lost their jobs may have great difficulty staying in the UK.  Tier 2 intra-company transfer visa holders cannot switch to work on another Tier 2 visa.  Tier 2 General visa holders are in a better situation, but will most likely need to find another job with a Sponsor.  The Global Talent visa, Innovator visa and Start-Up visa are difficult to come under.

Amid widespread redundancies and staff furloughs as a result of COVID-19, the UK’s business and non-EU migrant communities fear for their Tier 2 sponsor licences and Tier 2 visas, respectively. Meanwhile, business analysts predict a nationwide talent slump with furlough and redundancy forcing many migrant workers to exit the UK.

It’s estimated that more than 9 million workers have been furloughed in the UK, many of whom don’t know if they will have a job to return to. Business analysts argue that job losses put migrants at greater risk because of the affect it has on their UK visa and immigration status.

Meanwhile, businesses risk losing their Tier 2 sponsor licence allowing them to employ non-EU workers because of failing to meet their sponsorship duties. Each scenario leaves the UK with the dilemma of potentially losing top talent.

Tier 2 visa holders

Tier 2 visa holders that have been made redundant face having to leave the UK and remain overseas for at least 12 months for a ‘cooling off’ period as per the terms of their work visa.

Those in the UK under the Tier 2 intra-company transfer program will be unable to switch to another employer or work unless they’re granted a visa under a different category such as global talent or innovator.

To avoid having to leave the UK, Tier 2 visa holders need to find an employer with a skilled job opening, making a fresh application before they are asked to leave the country. However, analysts say that this would be very difficult given the current health crisis.

Tier 2 sponsor licence holders

For Tier 2 sponsor licence holders, the loss of international talent could have devastating ramifications for their business, according to analysts.

A report published by Personnel Today, states: “Sponsored workers are typically highly skilled and losing this talent with a time restriction before they can return could be devastating to some new employers if they can’t source the skills from within the UK, especially when the economy gets back on track.”

Tier 2 sponsor licence holding employers can place non-EEA employees on the government’s furlough scheme, with a reduced salary. Under normal circumstances, when a Tier 2 visa holder’s salary falls below the income threshold, the sponsoring employer must end their sponsorship of the employee, unless the pay reduction was for:

  • Maternity leave
  • Paternity leave
  • Sick leave

The furlough scheme has introduced concessions that allow Tier 2 sponsor licence holders to temporarily reduce the salary of sponsored employees, provided that:

  • The pay is reduced to 80% of the salary as on the certificate of sponsorship or £2,500 per month, whichever is lower
  • The company has temporarily reduced or ceased trading
  • The reductions are part of a company-wide policy to avoid redundancies where all workers are treated equally
  • The pay cut is temporary, and the salary will return to its original level once these arrangements have ended

Redundancies due to coronavirus COVID-19

The Home Office has not yet announced any concessions for Tier 2 visa holders who have been made redundant or face losing their job due to coronavirus. It’s understood that company HR departments are still required to inform the Home Office that a sponsored worker has stopped work within 10 days of their final day of employment.

The expiry date of the sponsored employee’s Tier 2 visa will then be brought forward under visa curtailment rules. Perhaps controversially, Tier 2 visa holders cannot appeal against this decision. However, the Home Office can exercise discretion should the worker have a dependant under the age of 18.

Visa curtailment limits non-EEA migrants to remaining in the UK for 60 days from the date of a Home Office issued letter. However, it’s possible for non-EEA migrants to switch from a Tier 2 general visa to another UK visa category while still legally in the country. Unfortunately, this does not apply to those under the Tier 2 intra company transfer scheme.

It is hoped that the government will announce concessions for non-EEA workers made redundant or facing redundancy. If the government fails to act, the UK’s business community fears that the talent that could benefit other employers will take their skills elsewhere, leaving the country to fill ever-increasing skills gaps.

Workpermit.com can help with Tier 2 Visa Sponsor Licence and Tier 2 Visa

If you need help with a Tier 2 visa, or a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence, including help with complying with your Tier 2 Sponsor Licence obligations, workpermit.com can help.

For more information and advice on Tier 2 Sponsor Licences, UK immigration law and UK visa applications please contact us on 0344 991 9222 or at london@workpermit.com