November 2022 – UK Sponsorship Guidelines Updates
On 9th November 2022, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) published a number of changes to its guidance for UK sponsors of long-term and temporary overseas workers. The updated guidance includes:
- Allowing sponsored employees to start their employment in the UK before their intended start date without informing the Home Office
- Greater flexibility regarding the 28-day starting rule
- A new concession allowing sponsored employees to start their employment in the UK more than 28 days after their intended start date if certain conditions are met without informing the Home Office
- A new exemption on paying the immigration skills charge (ISC) when issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to a Senior or Specialist Worker if certain conditions are met
- New provisions for extended workplace absences without pay
- A new concession for Skilled Workers whose pay has been reduced if certain conditions have been met
- Clarification on “guaranteed basic gross pay”
In this news article, we will outline the main changes to the UKVI sponsorship guidance and explain how licenced sponsors will be affected.
Change 1) Allowing sponsored employees to start their employment in the UK before their intended start date without informing the Home Office
UKVI have now clarified that sponsored employees can start work in the UK before the intended date shown on their Certificate of Sponsorship (Cos) as long as this is after the date their visa was approved. UKVI states, “A worker can start working in their sponsored employment as soon as they have permission to enter or stay in the UK, even if this is before the start date recorded on their CoS”.
If a sponsored worker starts work before the planned start date, the employer does not need to inform the Home Office of this change in circumstances.
Change 2) Greater flexibility regarding the 28-day starting rule
Overseas workers are normally required to start work in the UK within 28 days. UKVI have added greater flexibility by allowing this 28 days to start from whichever is the latest of the:
- “Start date” on their CoS
- “Valid from” date on their entry clearance vignette
- Date they were granted permission to enter if they entered the UK without entry clearance under the Creative Worker visa concession, or
- Date the worker is notified of a grant of entry clearance or permission to stay
Change 3) A new concession allowing sponsored employees to start their employment in the UK more than 28 days after their intended start date
UKVI have now clarified that a sponsored worker can start work more than 28 days after the start date on their CoS, but only:
- In the event of Travel disruption due to a natural disaster, military conflict or pandemic
- If the worker is required to work out a period of contractual notice with their previous employer
- If there have been administrative delays in processing an exit visa for a worker in their home country
- If there are compelling circumstances, such as illness or bereavement
UKVI makes clear that the above is “not a comprehensive list, and each case will be judged on its merits”.
If any of the above conditions are met, there is now no requirement to inform the Home Office of a delay in starting employment.
Change 4) Exemption from the Immigration Skills Charge for Senior or Specialist Workers
Employers will no longer need to pay the immigration skills charge (ISC) when issuing a CoS for a Senior or Specialist Worker as long as all of the following criteria are met:
- The employer issues the CoS on or after 1st January 2023
- The employee is a national of an EU country or is a Latvian non-citizen
- The employee has been assigned to work in the UK by a business established in the EU. The business must form part of the same “sponsor group”, and
- The end date of the assignment must not exceed 36 months beyond the start date
Change 5) Extended absences without pay due to “compelling or compassionate circumstances”
Under the new guidance, if an overseas sponsored worker is absent from work for more than four weeks and there are “compelling or compassionate circumstances”, it may be possible for the sponsor to continue employing them. The extended absence must be reported to UKVI via the SMS, but no approval is required to continue the worker’s employment. UKVI will still want to be satisfied that the reasons for the extended absence are genuine and valid.
Change 6) A new concession for Skilled Workers whose pay has been reduced if certain conditions have been met
UKVI have added a new concession that means if a worker’s salary is reduced due to health reasons, the sponsor does not need to stop employing them. This applies if the salary is reduced due to a short-term reduction in working hours (or a phased return to work) for individual health reasons as long as this is:
- Supported by an occupational health assessment; and
- The reduction does not cause the hourly rate to fall below the hourly rate requirement that was met when applying for the visa.
Change 7) Clarification on “guaranteed basic gross pay”
UKVI have now clarified that when stating a salary on a CoS, they will only take into account a worker’s “guaranteed basic gross pay”. As such, they will not consider:
- Pay that is not guaranteed because the worker’s hours fluctuate
- Additional pay – this includes shift allowance, overtime and bonus pay (whether guaranteed or not)
- Employer pensions
- Employer national insurance contributions
- Allowances (e.g. such as accommodation allowances or cost of living allowances)
- Benefits-in-kind, e.g. equity shares, health insurance, school or university fees, company cars or food
- Single/one-off payments
- Payments made by the employer to the employee to cover immigration charges/fees, or
- Business expenses (e.g. uniform, fuel, heating etc.).
The above list of changes to the immigration sponsorship guidance is not exhaustive. If you need any assistance with adapting your sponsorship processes and procedures in light of these changes, speak to one of our business immigration specialists, who can assist you.
A Y & J Solicitors is a specialist immigration law firm with extensive experience. We have an in-depth understanding of immigration law and are professional and results-focused. For assistance with your application or any other UK immigration law concerns, please contact us on +44 20 7404 7933 or at Contact US today. We’re here to help!