Government Plans to Reform the UK Sponsor Licence And Work Visa System

Government Plans to Reform the UK Sponsor Licence And Work Visa System

The government’s plans to reform the UK sponsor licence and work visa system have got sidelined in the mainstream news by the widescale reporting on immigration fee increases.

There is no doubt that the visa fee increases will hit individual visa applicants, UK business owners, and ultimately the end consumers hard. That’s why the massive work visa and immigration health surcharge fee increases are rightly headline news.  

Business immigration solicitor Rashid Uzzaman says

With work visa fees rising by up to 15% and the immigration health surcharge rising from £624 to £1,035 per year, migrant workers may be deterred from applying for a UK work visa unless UK employers increase salaries to attract overseas job applicants or agree to pay the surcharge on behalf of the recruit. With certificates of sponsorship rising by up to 20%, the cost of sponsoring an overseas worker has spiralled beyond inflation-related rises. Ultimately it will be the consumers who pay as most UK businesses aren’t able to meet all their recruitment needs from within the UK and cannot afford to not pass on the rises to customers through price increases.

UK employers need business savvy advice on how to meet these challenges. For example, at Harper James, we are already advising on clawback provisions in employment contracts for those sponsor licence holders who decide to pay the immigration health surcharge on behalf of sponsored recruits. Clawback clauses provide a degree of protection in case the sponsored employee leaves their employment before the expiry of their work visa. With the immigration health surcharge rising to over £1,000 per year more employers are interested in this type of provision.

There are bigger changes afoot for sponsor licence holders. The government has said the existing system of certificates of sponsorship is being phased out and replaced by the 'sponsor a worker' scheme. From 2024 the new scheme will be tested and then operate alongside the licence scheme until it the sponsor licence is phased out.

Rashid Uzzaman says

So far, many UK business owners aren’t aware of the planned changes to the sponsor licence system. The fee rises and the proposed changes will not deter many business owners from applying for a first sponsor licence or renewing an existing one as they have no choice because of the extent of the UK skills shortage. That’s what is so tough about the price hikes and proposed reforms but l have no doubt that businesses and their advisors will knuckle down to find solutions despite the uncertainty.

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