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UK - Sponsorship under the new points based system

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The concept of sponsorship will play an important part in the United Kingdom's new points based system, which will cover all routes for study and employment-based immigration into the UK.

Except for Tier 1 for highly skilled migrants (including investors and entrepreneurs), people wishing to immigrate to the UK through the new points based system will require a sponsor.

A UK sponsor is either an employer that has wishes to hire a worker from outside the European Union or an educational institution that has accepted a non-EU foreign student for a course of study. Sponsors will need to be licensed by the Border and Immigration Agency.

A migrant coming to the UK under Tiers 2 through 5 will be issued a certificate of sponsorship by their employer or educational institution which they must present to immigration authorities when they apply for their visa. However, the certificate of sponsorship is not a guarantee that the visa will be granted...migrants must still pass the relevant points test for their Tier.

Sponsorship will play an especially prominent role in Tier 2 for skilled migrants with a job offer. Employers will be subject to oversight from the UK Border and Immigration Agency and are required to notify the agency if a foreign worker fails to comply with their immigration conditions, such as failing to show up for work. There are also new civil and criminal offences being introduced in parallel to the new sponsorship rules for employment of illegal workers.

As the new sponsorship rules place additional responsibilities on the employer than before, businesses will have to take this into account before recruiting from abroad. However, migrants can also be reasonably assured that employers who qualify for sponsorship are reputable. During application for the right to act as a sponsor, background checks are carried out on the employer.

Finding a job in the UK can be the biggest hurdle for non-European Union nationals looking to live and work in Britain. However, the country is one of the few EU member states that provide an immigration program for people with the appropriate skills to immigrate to the UK without a job offer.

The Tier 1 sub-category for general highly skilled migrants will begin in March 2008 and will replace the current Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP). For this tier, a job offer and sponsorship from an employer are not required. For those that can score the required points under this system, this is the preferred route of entry into the UK.