On the back of the immigration law changes announced by the government in December 2023, we’ve seen a lot of activity from the Home Office in recent days and there is much more to come in the first part of 2024 as the government attempts to bring in measures to curb immigration in time for an election later in the year.
- From 6 February, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will introduce increases to the Health Surcharge. This will increase from £624 per year to £1,035 per year and will add considerably to the costs of securing visas for foreign workers as well as for most visa categories.
- From 13 February, fines for employing illegal workers are tripling. The civil penalty for a first offence by an employer will be increasing to £45,000 from £15,000. For those accused of repeated breaches, the fines are being raised to £60,000 from £20,000.
- Sponsor licence renewal requirements are changing. Unsurprisingly, the UKVI is busy and, as such, have freed themselves from having to deal with licence renewal applications by removing renewal requirements for all licences with expiry dates after 6 April 2024. All sponsor licences with four year expiry dates that fall after 6 April 2024 will now have been extended automatically by ten years so renewal applications will no longer be necessary for these licences. This at least is a welcome change saving businesses money and time, although confusingly, sponsor licence holders may still receive emails asking them to renew their licences. Anyone with a licence renewal application due before 6 April 2024 will still need to complete one.
Other trends and developments affecting businesses include:
- The UKVI are busy conducting audits, primarily targeting care homes and those employing in adult social care provision, an area where abuse of the sponsorship system is feared through bogus care roles and low wages. In March, they also intend to reform the rules to prevent sponsored care workers from bringing their dependants to the UK with them and will be requiring all sponsors in this industry to be registered with the Care Quality Commission.
- Requests for additional information and supporting documentation in response to Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) allocation applications is becoming commonplace. We’re seeing this lead to delays in the grant of certificates and it’s naturally impacting recruitment by employers and visa turnaround times. Some CoS allocation applications are even refused if not properly evidenced and require careful responses from employers.
The above changes and trends are all in addition to the changes already proposed by the government in December, which we set out in our earlier article, and no doubt there will be many more to come, particularly with an election coming up this year.
If your business is affected by these changes or if you have any questions, please do get in touch.
You may also be interested in joining our webinar on 24 April 2024 on Employing overseas nationals in the UK.