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Post Brexit Labour Shortage and Home Office Sponsorship - "A Licence to Fill"?

17 July 2019
As the United Kingdom rumbles on towards, possibly, a 31 October 2019 Brexit uncertainty with regard filling future labour supply continues to rise, particularly with regard to skilled and shortage occupation workers.
It is now clearly established that those European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals who are in the UK at the date of Brexit (and who arrive under any transitional arrangements if there is in fact a deal) will be permitted to keep on living and working here.  However, for those skilled EEA and Swiss nationals who wish to come to live and work at a later date, once the Brexit dust has finally settled, then the present position is that they will be treated in the same way as non EEA / Swiss nationals presently are i.e. the criteria will be sponsorship based on skills regardless of nationality*.

Currently it is envisaged that the existing Tier 2 General Visa of the UK Points Based System, which applies to the new hire and sponsorship of highly skilled migrants (generally holding degree level jobs), will be modified to allow lower, but nevertheless skilled, workers into the UK.

The government is also proposing to further tinker with the Immigration Rules to remove the present cap on Tier 2 General Visa migration and the requirement that jobs must first be advertised for 28 days to ensure that no UK or settled worker can carry out the role.

The Tier 2 General Visa will continue to remain a route to settlement (permanent residency) and ultimately citizenship for those who desire it, which may be attractive to potential job candidates who have long term aspirational goals for themselves and/or their family dependents.  In any event, a free UK education for any children and full access to its health service may further persuade a skilled international migrant that the UK could be the work destination of choice, over perhaps Canada or the United States who are also keen to attract talent.

Given the above, more and more employers are moving to consideration of whether or not obtaining a Home Office Sponsorship Licence now is the next step for future skilled labour planning.  We therefore briefly summarise below what a Sponsorship Licence is and, what in our view, the main benefits of holding a licence include both now and in future.


What is a Home Office Tier 2 General Sponsorship Licence?

A Home Office Sponsorship Licence is the vehicle through which UK based businesses can sponsor (presently) skilled non EEA /Swiss nationals to come and live and work in the UK by way of new hire.

The licence is obtained on application to the Home Office by demonstrating a real and genuine trading presence in the UK and by satisfying it that sufficient HR capabilities and processes are in place to effectively monitor and report on migrant activity.

A licence is issued for a period of four years, followed by quadrennial renewal. 

Top benefits of holding a Tier 2 General Sponsorship Licence

1. Perhaps most importantly, holding a Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence allows an employer access to a vast international talent pool that its competitors without a licence do not have.  This is not only with regard new hires from outside of the UK but also:

a. allows recruitment from the graduate pool of international students from UK universities; and

b. allows recruitment of migrants in the UK already sponsored by another business i.e. lateral hires from competitors.

2. Additional categories are available to employers within Tier 2, including the "Intra-Company Transfer" Visa, which may independently be an attractive proposition to global businesses in its own right.  This allows sponsors to bring skilled international employees into the UK for various purposes such as training, project management, professional career development etc.   

Again, the prospect of a "secondment" to the UK may be a significant draw in recruiting a candidate to a global office and securing the appointment rather than a competitor.   

3. As mentioned, it is also likely that following Brexit the Tier 2 model will be adapted by the Home Office for EEA and Swiss migrants.  Existing sponsors will therefore already have the platform with which to provide sponsorship to skilled EEA/Swiss nationals and, perhaps, gain an initial advantage in securing talent from this additional but finite pool.

If you have any queries with regard to securing a Home Office Sponsorship Licence, or anything in connection with visas and immigration, then please contact our Tier 1 "Legal 500" rated team of specialist solicitors.

[*Contingent proposals exist for allowing migrants temporary (12 month) work visas to come to the UK to carry out low skilled jobs and also Home Office pilots are presently being run in respect of seasonal / agricultural fruit and vegetable pickers.  These are intended to "plug the gaps" following Brexit but will not allow the migrants the possibility of permanent residency.]


Further Reading

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