Recent months have seen tweaks being made to the rules and requirements of the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system and more changes are on the horizon.
During this webinar, on 26th May, our expert immigration solicitors identified key changes employers should be aware of and provided practical tips and guidance for HR and Management on:
The Skilled Worker visa has replaced the Tier 2 General visa. It is for those who wish to come to the UK for the purpose of working in a skilled job they have been offered and sponsored for by a UK based employer.
On 1 December 2020, the Tier 2 General visa was replaced by the Skilled Worker visa. The main changes are:
Applicants under this route still need to prove that they have the ability to speak English at level B1 level (lower intermediate)
It applies equally to EU, EEA and non-EEA nationals who need a visa to work in the UK.
Yes, if your company holds a Skilled Worker sponsor licence it can assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to the individual which will allow them to apply for the visa. The job they are sponsored to do must meet the minimum skill level and minimum salary.
If your company previously held a Tier 2 General sponsor licence, this will have been automatically converted to a Skilled Worker sponsor licence.
If your company does not already hold a Skilled Worker sponsor licence, it will need to apply for one before you can sponsor an individual.
For the Skilled Worker visa, ‘defined’ and ‘undefined’ Certificates of Sponsorship were introduced on 1 December 2020.
If the worker applies for their visa from outside the UK, the sponsor needs to assign them a defined CoS and if they are applying for their visa from within the UK, the sponsor needs to assign them an undefined CoS.
Undefined CoS’ are issued on an annual basis on 6 April. This is called your ‘annual allocation’. You can apply for an annual allocation in the three months prior to 6 April via the Sponsor Management System.
If throughout the year, you need an additional undefined CoS, you can apply for more via the SMS however it can take weeks for this application to be dealt with by UKVI.
A defined CoS has to be applied for each time you need one for a specific role to be sponsored. This application is also made by the Level 1 User on the Sponsor Management System. Unlike with the old style restricted CoS, you can apply as and when needed and applications are usually dealt with within 1 working day if they are straightforward.
When making their Skilled Worker visa application, the employee is required to provide evidence that they have at least £1,270 in an account in their name for the 28 days before the application. If the employee cannot meet this requirement, or wishes to avoid the hassle of providing evidence of this with the application, the sponsor can tick a box on the CoS to confirm that it certifies the employee’s maintenance.
If you tick this box, your organisation is confirming that you will maintain and accommodate the employee, up to the level of at least £1,270 up to the end of the first month of sponsorship/employment, if required and we suggest that documentation is put in place confirming this and can assist you in preparing this.
The employer/sponsor will need to pay a fee to UKVI of £199 to assign the CoS and may also have to pay the Immigration Skills Charge.
The employee will have to pay the visa application fee, biometrics fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge. Some employers choose to cover all or part of these costs.
|Period||Small or charitable sponsors||Medium or large sponsors|
|First 12 months||£364||£1,000|
|Each additional 6 months||£182||£500|
This charge is payable at the time of assigning the CoS.
You should sponsor your employee for as long as you expect to require them to hold the role they are being sponsored to do. The maximum initial duration of sponsorship is 5 years but there is no restriction on the amount of times that this can be extended, provided they still meet the eligibility requirements.
The upfront fees payable increase if sponsorship is for more than 3 years so most employers sponsor their employee for 3 years and then they subsequently extend the visa for a further period of 3 years or less.
The length of the sponsorship period may also impact on the minimum salary that you have to pay the individual. Please contact us to discuss this further.
After 5 years, the employee can apply for Indefinite Leave Remain.
Yes. They would end their employment and sponsorship with you and need to obtain a new qualifying job offer from another employer with a sponsor licence who will assign a CoS and they would then have to make a new visa application.
You are required to notify UKVI that the Skilled Worker visa holder’s employment has ended. This is done through the Sponsor Management System within 10 working days of the termination date. The employee’s visa will then be curtailed.
Previously, the Tier 2 cooling off period prevented an individual who held a Tier 2 visa from returning to the UK for a period of 12 months after their visa expired, on another Tier 2 visa. Under the new post-Brexit system, the cooling off period has been removed.
The IHS refund scheme has been launched for those working in the NHS or social care sector.
Workers applying for the Health and Care visa are exempt from paying the IHS and those who have previously paid it upfront may be able to claim this back every 6 months.
To be eligible for a refund, the worker must:
If the main applicant meets the eligibility criteria, they can also apply for a refund for their dependants.
Each role that you can sponsor an employee for has a minimum salary set by UKVI. The starting point is that the minimum salary must be £25,600pa or, if higher, the going rate for the role which is the salary for that role detailed in the Immigration Rules.
All salaries are based on working a minimum number of hours per week as set out in the Immigration Rules. The roles capable of sponsorship and the salary requirements are regularly amended, for assistance with identifying the minimum salary for a specific role, please contact us.
Yes, a lower salary can be paid if:
The role that you are sponsoring must be at RQF Level 3 or above, which is equivalent to A Level.
Yes – so long as the student has:
Sponsoring a student means that you don’t have to pay the Immigration Skills Surcharge and will be eligible to pay a slightly lower salary.
A ‘new entrant’ is someone who is a new entrant to the labour market and so are near the start of their career. They must meet certain criteria to be classed as a new entrant by UKVI.
An applicant who is making their first Skilled Worker visa application or entering the UK for the first time is not automatically a new entrant.
To be classed as a new entrant, one of the below criteria must be met:
Further criteria must be met if the applicant’s most recent UK visa was Tier 4 (General) or Student:
The Health and Care Worker visa was introduced in August 2020 and is a sub-category of the Skilled Worker visa which applies to global health professionals.
Applicants must meet the Skilled Worker visa (previously the Tier 2 General visa) requirements in that they must have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship, meet the appropriate skill and salary level for their role, be able to prove their English language ability, have the minimum personal savings, have a valid TB test (if required) and criminal record certificate.
You must also be sponsored by a qualifying employer in a qualifying role (see below).
The application fee for the Health and Care visa is cheaper than the Skilled Worker visa at £232 for visas for up to 3 years and £464 for more than 3 years. The fee is discounted further if the role is on the Shortage Occupation List. In addition, applicants do not have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (currently £624 per year). An added benefit is that dependants are also be exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge.
Further, the processing times for Health and Care Worker visa applications are faster than for the standard Skilled Worker visa at three weeks as opposed to eight weeks.
In order to qualify for the visa, applicants must be taking up a job in an eligible role. Although the name of this visa suggests that care assistants and other care home staff would be eligible, this is not the case and these professions have been explicitly excluded. Instead, the visa is for those health professional roles which the Government assesses as being skilled, such as doctors, nurses, dentists, physiotherapists and paramedics. A full list of the eligible roles are provided here.
In addition to holding an eligible job, applicants must be taking up a job with the NHS, an NHS provider or one of the listed organisations in the guidance. Listed organisations include a Local Authority or Clinical Commissioning Group as well as organisations registered with the Care Quality Commission where the migrant is employed to provide (or to support the provision of) regulated activities as prescribed in Schedule 1 to the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014.
Applicants will need to apply using the online Skilled Worker visa application form but will need to tick a box to confirm that they are applying for the Health and Care Worker visa.
Sponsors employing migrants under this route will need to explain in the Certificate of Sponsorship how the employee is eligible. For example, where a sponsor provides services commissioned by the NHS, proof of this arrangement should be provided to evidence that the Health and Care Worker visa is applicable.
Employers who are assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship to a migrant under the Health and Care Worker visa must ensure that they:
These steps are to ensure that those migrants who qualify for fast-track entry, reduced fees and automatic exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge are identified during the application process.
The Intra-Company Transfer visa replaced the Tier 2 (Inter-company Transfer) visa on 1 January 2021 and can be used where an overseas employer has offered an individual a role in a UK branch of the organisation.
There are two different types of ICT visa:
A CoS from a licenced sponsor is still required and the applicant still needs to have worked for the overseas company for a minimum of 12 months before applying for the visa unless they are a high earner with a salary of £73,900pa or more, in which case there is no minimum duration of employment required. An Intra-Company Graduate Trainee only needs to have been employed for 3 months.
A key change made is to the cooling-off requirement. Previously a Tier 2 visa holder was prevented from re-entering the UK on the Intra-Company Transfer route or the Tier 2 General route for 12 months after departing. Under the new rules applicants are permitted to hold an Intra-Company Transfer visa for up to five years in any six year rolling period or up to nine years in any ten year period for high earners (at or above £73,900pa).
The minimum salary remains unchanged which is £41,500 for Intra-Company Transfer visa holders and £23,000 for Intra-Company Graduate Trainees.
The expectation is that the ICT visa will be reviewed again in 2021 with further reform to the visa expected towards the end of 2021 or early 2022.
This depends on the type of ICT visa they have and the salary you pay your worker:
The employer/sponsor will need to pay a fee to UKVI of £199 to assign the CoS and may also have to pay the Immigration Skills Charge (please see above).
The employee will have to pay the visa application fee, biometrics fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge. Some employers choose to cover all or part of these costs.
Employees will usually prefer to be sponsored for a Skilled Worker visa (previously Tier 2 General Visa). This is because it leads to settlement in the UK whereas the ICT visa is a temporary visa and they have to leave the UK at the end of it.
However, previously, Tier 2 ICT visa holders could not switch to a Tier 2 General visa (now the Skilled Worker visa). They had to instead leave the UK for a 12 month ‘cooling off period’ and apply once this period had expired. Under the new post-Brexit system they are able to switch from an ICT to a Skilled Worker visa which also means that they will subsequently be able to apply for ILR after holding the Skilled Worker visa for 5 years.
For the employer, the ICT visa is usually a little quicker and easier to obtain. The applicant also doesn’t have to meet the English language eligibility criteria. However the minimum salary for the ICT visa is often higher than for the Skilled Worker visa.
Employers need to hold a ICT sponsor licence to be able to sponsor workers for this visa type. This is so that the Home Office has evidence of the connection between your UK entity and overseas entity from which the worker will be transferred.
If you currently hold a Skilled Worker licence only, you can apply to add ICT sponsorship to this. This can be done online for an additional fee and we can assist with the same.
Yes. For the Graduate trainee visa the minimum salary is £23,000pa and for the Long-term staff visa, it is £41,500pa.
The Home Office will take account of the following when calculating the minimum salary:
Yes. The role that you the worker will be sponsored to do must be at RQF Level 3 or above (equivalent to A Level). There are some limited exceptions to this requirement.
For the Graduate Trainee visa, the worker needs to have worked for your overseas entity for at least 3 months.
For the Intra-Company Transfer visa, the worker need to have worked for your overseas entity for at least 12 months. This 12 month requirement can be avoided if the role that the worker will carry out in the UK pays a salary of £73,900 pa or more.
We provide a range of services to Skilled Worker and ICT visa applicants including assistance with their initial application and switching to this visa category. This includes:
Fee estimate*: £1,000 – £1,500
*: Our fees are calculated based on the number of hours it will take us to carry out this work. The exact number of hours it will take depends on the circumstances in your case, such as:
Fees are excluding VAT at the rate of 20%. VAT may or may not be payable on the above fee estimate as this is dependent on the country in which you reside and you will be advised of this before work on your application commences. Disbursements are costs related to your matter that are payable to third parties, such as visa fees payable to the Home Office and document translation fees. These are not included in the above estimates.
Full details can be found in our comprehensive pricing document, which can be found here, or please contact one of our immigration specialists.
As a registered sponsor of Skilled Worker and ICT migrants, you have a wealth of obligations and duties to UK Visas & Immigration and failure to comply can ultimately lead to your licence being revoked.
Have peace of mind from only £100 per month
Let our business immigration experts take away that risk and strain by being named as Legal Representative on your sponsor licence, as well as having day-to-day involvement as a Level 1 User of the Sponsor Management System.
Our service includes:
We run an in-depth training course on Sponsor Management for Skilled Worker and ICT sponsor licence holders. This half day course is aimed at members of HR and Management and those who are Key Personnel named on the sponsor licence. This training, previously delivered at your premises but available to be delivered online, covers:
These half day training courses cost £995 plus VAT each and can be delivered in-house to your staff. To discuss your immigration training requirements or the above courses, please contact us.
Our immigration solicitors provide Right to Work training for HR and Recruitment teams and those who are responsible for carrying out right to work checks on employees. Using practical examples and case studies, the course is designed to up-skill your staff and ensure compliant right to work checks are completed. This training can be delivered at your premises and covers:
Half day training courses cost £995 plus VAT each and can be delivered in-house to your staff. To discuss your immigration training requirements or the above courses, please contact us.
Correctly managing your organisation’s Skilled Worker and ICT sponsor licence and retaining copies of all of the relevant documents is an onerous but important task.
If you are concerned that the organisation is not on top of this, or you want peace of mind that your reporting and record keeping is up to date, or perhaps you have a pending visit from a Home Office Immigration Compliance Officer, a member of our expert immigration team can carry out a thorough compliance audit for you.
This typically includes:
Prices start from £1,000 plus VAT. Contact us to find out more.
Given the fast pace of change, we would stress that this information is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
As a hub, we have included references to articles and explainers from third parties. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.