The Home Office has unveiled a ‘roadmap’ outlining plans to invest heavily in IT system changes to speed up the process of applying for a UK visa sponsorship licence for employers. Announcing changes to the UK’s points based sponsor licence system, the Home Office said: “Our goal is ensuring the UK is a global leader in helping employers access overseas talent.”
“As we modernise the UK immigration system, we will deliver a streamlined, simplified and modern sponsorship system that enables a more efficient operation, for users and the Home Office, and encourages compliance,” a Home Office statement said.
According to the roadmap, information will be brought together from a number of different departments about organisations, giving caseworkers a clearer picture of the data that is held on a sponsor licence holder and sponsored workers, while facilitating faster decision making.
The roadmap states: “The new system will allow for greater understanding about the sponsor and their sponsored worker for the Home Office, helping to support compliance.”
Employers are being warned that greater care and attention will need to be paid to their sponsor licence status to avoid falling foul of sanctions for non-compliance with their duties as a UK skilled worker visa sponsor.
The new roadmap makes it very clear that the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) department of the Home Office plans to link UK immigration records with other government systems in an effort to automate checks, some of which will relate to compliance.
The Home Office intends to introduce an automated salary checker, which will enable the department to extract data from HMRC and cross reference salaries being paid to migrant workers.
Sponsor licence system abuse
The roadmap states: “The transformed sponsorship system will make greater use of technology to identify abuse, and we will continue to work closely with our key partners. Our new salary checks with HMRC will enable us to ensure that employees are being paid the amount their employers committed to paying them.”
“Sanctions for non-compliance may range from conditions or limits on recruitment, managed action plans, or suspension and revocation of a sponsor licence,” the roadmap added.
Employers and employees are being warned that the new salary check feature is set to be piloted in the fourth quarter of 2021. Employers are being advised to carry out a retrospective check for all sponsored workers to compare salary records held by HMRC and those provided to UKVI as part of a sponsor licence application.
Automated system flaw
However, a potential flaw has been identified with the automated salary check feature in that many sponsoring employers do not use PAYE and are not necessarily obligated to use it. This means UKVI risks discriminating against employers who do not routinely send payroll data to HMRC.
Aside from heavily investing in IT systems to modernise the sponsor licence process, the Home Office is expected to keep many of its compliance checks in line with the current system.
However, the roadmap said: “We will target compliance visits to those sponsors who present a higher risk or have no track record of compliance.”
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