On 26th August 2021 the Home Office published the UK’s PBS sponsorship roadmap outlining changes planned for the sponsorship process this year, in 2022 and beyond. The intention is to make the sponsor management system more user friendly, substantially reduce the time it takes to bring someone to the UK and encourage compliance.
The document focuses on future changes for existing and prospective sponsors, including employers and universities.
Progress to date
As part of the introduction of the UK’s points-based system in December 2020, newly implemented reforms have reduced the length of time it takes to recruit a worker from overseas by up to eight weeks through:
- Removing the Resident Labour Market Test
- Suspending the cap on Skilled Workers
- Making the sponsor licence application fully paperless and re-designing the sponsor guidance
- Introducing the Chip Checker functionality for a fully digital application process for EEA nationals applying via the new points-based system.
The sponsorship reforms are part of the Home Office’s plan to make the points-based system streamlined and digital where possible.
The UK’s PBS Sponsorship Roadmap – reforms in 2021
Objectives for redesigning the sponsorship system include:
- Speeding up end-to-end processing from applying for a sponsor licence to a worker being approved for a visa – besides the above outlined reforms the Home Office is planning to review how the documentary evidence required for becoming a licensed sponsor can be simplified.
- Improve user experience of the sponsorship system by reducing the burden on sponsors to maintain their licence, provide the functionality and transparency requested – in Q4 2021 the aim is to:
- establish a support service for small and micro businesses
- Review sponsorship fees to ensure they remain fair as the new system is rolled out
- Introduce an enhanced Skilled Worker eligibility checking tool that will make it easier to understand if a particular job is eligible under the Skilled Worker route.
- Prevention of abuse of the system including effective management of information risk via the new salary check feature with HMRC.
Sponsorship reforms in 2022 and beyond
For 2022 the Home Office is planning technological and system reforms underpinned by ongoing testing of the design with stakeholders. The aim is to become global leaders in helping sponsors access overseas talent to start work and study quicker and more effective in the UK.
In Q1 of 2024 reforms will mean that the sponsorship system will be:
- Delivering a faster end-to-end process for sponsors and workers they employ
- Simplified process for sponsoring new workers through re-using information the government already holds where possible
- Streamlined with a single dashboard to make it easier for sponsors to understand the status of the licence and the actions they need to take.
Improvements for customers
Improvements resulting in faster end-to-end customer journey from the sponsor licence application to the visa application being approved will be delivered by spring 2022.
More detailed research is being undertaken to understand factors that may prevent some organisations from applying for a licence.
There will be a shorter service standard for straightforward, compliant applicants. Licence renewal patterns will be reformed for sponsored employment routes and the system will be simplified for users.
The build of a new sponsorship IT system will happen in 3 stages. A set of users including SME’s and larger employers will be chosen to test the developments in this new service. It may take approximately two years for the full roll-out of the system.
Some employers will be moved to the new system by mid-2023. The aim is to have all licensed employers on the system by Q1 of 2024.
- By mid-2022 there will be a functionality to invite the worker to make their visa application once the role details have been approved. The visa application will be pre-populated with the role information provided by the sponsor.
- By end of 2022 there will be an improved online management system for all sponsors to carry out post licence activities. Organisations will be able to view the status of their sponsored workers and be prompted to take action at the appropriate time.
- The new system will enable automatic checks against data held by HMRC and Companies House, including validation of someone’s link to the sponsor organisation.
- The new system will support compliance by bringing together information held by other departments about organisations, allowing for quicker decision making.
- By early 2023 it will be easier for prospective sponsors to apply for a sponsor licence. Automated data checks will validate whether a user is employed by or is an office holder of a sponsored organisation as well as validate key details about the organisation. The aim is to reduce the opportunity for abuse, simplify evidence requirements and reduce casework processing times.
Under the new system sponsors may still be subject to compliance visits from the moment they apply to be a sponsor and throughout the period they hold the licence. This is to ensure they are able to carry out their sponsorship duties.
Compliance visits will be targeted to sponsors who present a high risk or have no track record of compliance. During the visits the Home Office will monitor key protections for workers, such as the maximum 48-hour working week.
Sanctions for non-compliance may include conditions or limits on recruitment, managed action plans, or suspension and revocation of a sponsor licence.
The Home Office will work together with education providers to explore what should be included in the UK’s PBS sponsorship roadmap so that the current system can be improved.
The Global Business Mobility Route
This route is for overseas businesses seeking to establish a presence or transfer staff to the UK. It will be launched in Spring 2022 under the existing sponsorship system.
The Home Office want to collaborate with new and prospective sponsors to succeed in introducing a modernised sponsorship system.
Should you have any questions related to current compliance matters feel free to get in touch with a member of our team.