Since the government introduced major changes to the immigration system, freedom of movement between the UK and EU has ended. Now, businesses wishing to recruit staff from outside of the UK and Ireland, including those from the EU, are required to hold the correct sponsor licence.
What is UK visa sponsorship?
Under the UK’s points-based immigration system, the main visa-routes for non-UK residents working here require a sponsorship by a licensed employer. A sponsor licence grants a business permission to sponsor overseas workers and employ them in the UK.
By agreeing to become a licensed sponsor holder, businesses must also comply to certain responsibilities and checks from the Home Office. Duties of sponsor licence holders include:
- Record-keeping any right-to-work documentation, NI numbers, and contact details
- Monitoring sponsored individuals, and notifying the Home Office of any changes in circumstances
- Absence monitoring
Which type of sponsor licence?
The updated PBS has made switching in-country easier in many cases.
Economic Categories (highly skilled, investors, workers, and students)
For most economic routes, it is possible to switch from any visa, other than those listed above, as long as you are able to meet all other requirements for the particular visa you want. However, some categories are stricter. Switching to the Investor route is only possible in-country if you are currently here on a Skilled Worker, Entrepreneur, or Student visa.
New rules also allow Intra Company transferees to switch into the Skilled Worker route from inside the UK, as the cooling-off period has now been abolished. This could give individuals a possible route to settlement if they wished to remain in the UK. Note that cooling-off still applies to Religious or Charity Workers.
Individuals here on a student visa are permitted to switch to other economic categories e.g. Skilled Worker. The new Graduate route, which went live in July 2021, also offers students the opportunity to continue their stay in the UK and to work post-studying. You are only able to apply to this route from inside the UK, however, it does not lead to settlement.
Family Categories (partners, children, parents, adult dependent relatives)
It is possible to switch amongst family routes. For example, an applicant who enters as a partner could secure an extension as a parent if the marriage breaks down but there is an ongoing relationship with a child. It is also possible to secure permission to stay in the UK based on private life rather than family life where the specific private life requirements are met.
Applicants in these categories are now also able to switch to economic categories (e.g. Skilled Worker or Innovator) from inside the UK. Only individuals who are currently living in the UK as a parent of a Student Child are not permitted to switch to these categories; a fresh overseas application would be required instead.
Religious Categories (Minister of Religion, Religious Worker)
Under the new system, it is easier for individuals to switch into the Minister of Religion category. Inexperienced religious workers could potentially secure entry clearance as Religious Workers, and then switch into the Minister of Religion category from inside the UK – once they are able to undertake a key leading role within their faith-based organisation or religious order, and once their English language skills have improved.
Learn more about visa sponsorship or get general assistance on your current immigration situation in the United Kingdom
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The author is an English-qualified solicitor with more than 30 years' experience advising corporate and private clients on UK-inbound mobility. Reach out to Gary and request a consultation today.