UK Tier 2 sponsor licence duties and coronavirus COVID-19

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City of London from across the river

Sanwar Ali, workpermit.com

Comments by Sanwar Ali:

During the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemics some things have been made easier for employers.   The complicated and confusing Home Office reporting requirements have been relaxed.  If you need to apply for a Sponsor Licence you no longer need to provide original or certified copies of various documents.  This was also a huge burden for employers.  Trying to have documents certified from copies (these days obtaining certain original documents can be difficult) was not always straightforward.

Employers can employ Tier 2 visa applicants who are waiting for their visa from within the UK.  However, Tier 2 visa applicants who are outside the UK are unable to obtain UK visas and obtaining flights to the UK is difficult. Lengthy delays in bringing in staff from abroad is causing problems for many employers.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the duties of Tier 2 visa sponsoring employers have been eased slightly. Under normal circumstances, employers would have to report a change in working conditions of a migrant employee that they are sponsoring. For example, if you have migrant staff working from home you would normally have to report this.

However, under current guidelines in place, you are not required to notify the UK Visas and Immigration department of the Home Office if a migrant employee is working from home. Employers are also permitted to allow migrant employees to start work before their UK visa application has been approved, provided that:

  • You have assigned them with a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)
  • The employee filed their application prior to the expiry of an existing visa
  • They are employed in the same job role as the one specified on their CoS

Post-lockdown duties

It’s expected that normal Tier 2 visa sponsor licence duties will resume once coronavirus lockdown measures are lifted. With that in mind Tier 2 visa sponsoring employers are being urged to familiarise themselves with the duties that come with a Tier 2 sponsorship licence.

Employing a migrant under a Tier 2 visa

The job offer process is a key duty of a Tier 2 sponsor licence holder. You must follow the rules of job creation and advertising to ensure that the hiring process is fair and does not exclude qualified, UK workers and give preference to non-EEA workers.

When advertising and offering a job, it’s important to consider three key areas that will enable entry into the UK for Tier 2 general visa applicants. These are:

Tier 2 visa minimum salary

To qualify for a UK Tier 2 general visa, the role that a migrant worker will occupy should in many cases pay a minimum salary of £30,000 per year or the salary rate in the Codes of Practice for Skilled Workers, whichever is higher. Some can come under the new entrant rate from £20,800 per annum.  The salary is set at this level to prevent the Tier 2 visa route being used as a means of hiring low paid labour from overseas.

Resident Labour Market Test

Your job role must adhere to a number of criteria to be eligible to migrant workers applying for a Tier 2 visa. Your job will be subject to a series of tests known as the resident labour market test (RLMT), which features several specific steps that ensure that the job role you’re offering cannot be filled by a qualified, British worker.

The job you are advertising for must first be displayed on the UK government’s ‘Find a Job’ website, plus one other, private sector jobs board. Following the closing date for the receipt of applications, you must keep a record of why UK applicants were not suitable for your job role and the reasons why it needs to be offered to a non-EEA candidate.

Certain job roles do not require a RLMT and they are on the UK’s Shortage Occupation List (SoL) or if the vacancy pays a salary of £159,600 per year or more.

Shortage Occupation List

The UK labour force has a number of skills gaps in key industry sectors, many of which are crucial to everyday life in Britain, including healthcare, education and engineering. Due to chronic skills shortages in vital industry sectors, the SoL was introduced by the Home Office.

The list of job roles on the SoL not only allow employers to lower the minimum salary requirement, though other salary thresholds will apply, vacancies for jobs on the SoL are not subject to the RLMT.

Each job on the SoL is assigned a Shortage Occupation Code (SOC), which can be used on a CoS, which a migrant applicant needs to apply for a Tier 2 visa.

Allocating CoS

Assigning a CoS to a migrant worker is a key duty for you as an employer. A CoS supports the application of a Tier 2 visa candidate. To ensure that you’re correctly allocating a CoS, you must obtain all the necessary information needed from a migrant applicant and make sure they are suitability qualified for the vacant job.

It’s your responsibility to check that they are eligible to work in the UK. Provided that you are satisfied that an applicant is qualified and eligible to work in the UK, you can issue a CoS. You will need to specify how long the CoS is valid for and ensure that you meet the criteria under which you can allocate a CoS.

Maintaining your records

The arrival of your new employee in the UK marks the start of your Tier 2 visa sponsorship licence duties. This includes keeping on top of your records. You will need to ensure that your HR department maintains accurate, up to date information about migrant employees that you hire. You must keep a record of:

  • The employee’s right to work in the UK. This must be checked every 12 months.
  • Your employee’s Biometric Residence Permit. This can be a copy.
  • Your migrant worker’s National Insurance number – unless they are exempt.
  • The employee’s present and previous home address or addresses.
  • The worker’s Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.
  • Absences from work.

Maintaining your records is a crucial part of your duties. Failure to keep on top of records could lead to heavy fines, so make sure you have the systems and personnel in place to keep information organised and up to date.

Latest coronavirus updates, visa and immigration restrictions

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, plus details of visa and immigration restrictions worldwide, check Workpermit.com’s news feed to stay informed.

To apply for a UK visa extension amid the coronavirus pandemic, see this recent Workpermit.com news report.

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