UK: Major Changes To UK Immigration Procedures - A Summary Of The New Work Permit Regime

Last Updated: 4 December 2007
Article by Kamal Rahman and Steven Bostock

Liam Byrne, the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, and Nationality has announced the publication of the Statement of Intent of Sponsorship under the Points Based System ("Statement of Intent"). The Points Based System ("PBS") is at the heart of the government's plans to radically overhaul the current UK immigration system and will categorise the more than 80 current routes of entry into the UK into a tiered system consisting of five categories.

Under the PBS, applicants will be assessed against an objective list of criteria and will be required to achieve a minimum number of points to enter the UK under each respective tier.

Overview of proposed changes

  1. Applicants in four of the five tiers will also require sponsorship from a UK employer or educational institution in order to enter the country. Sponsors will first need to apply for a licence and will then be charged with assessing the suitability of the migrant to the proposed job or course of study. This is a crucial part of the PBS, which places duties and obligations on sponsors who will ultimately benefit from migration. The sponsorship relationship will also provide evidence that the migrant has a genuine job or course to go to in the UK.
  2. The Statement of Intent reflects the current Home Office policy intention in respect of sponsorship under the PBS. While parts of the Statement of Intent may change ahead of implementation of the PBS, it offers the clearest guidance to date on how the sponsorship regime will operate.
  3. The PBS will be gradually phased in over the next few years, with the sponsorship register being introduced at some time during the first quarter of next year.
  4. The PBS will operate in four out of the five tiers as follows (please note that the process for applicants under Tier One: Highly Skilled Migrant, will be slightly different).
  5. Process of Application
  6. a. Stage One: A licensed sponsor decides if the applicant meets the requirements for the job or course of study, and if so, issues him with a certificate of sponsorship. The certificate of sponsorship is a virtual document and consists of a unique reference number. A certificate of sponsorship issued to students will be called confirmation of acceptance of studies to avoid confusion in that sector.

    b. Stage Two: The applicant applies to his nearest British Overseas Mission for prior entry clearance. He will not be able to do this without having first been sponsored. This is evidenced by the unique sponsorship number, but does not guarantee that the applicant will be granted UK entry clearance. The decision as to whether or not to grant the visa will rest with the Border and Immigration Agency.

  7. Applications for the sponsor's licence will be made electronically and the prospective sponsor will need to supply specified evidence in respect of the application. The Statement of Intent lists which evidence will be required for different types of sponsor (for example, public limited companies or universities). Each license will last for four years unless withdrawn by the Border and Immigration Agency.
  8. The Border and Immigration Agency can refuse licence applications so great care must be taken when applying as without the licence the sponsor will not be able to issue a certificate of sponsorship.
  9. If the sponsor is granted a license it will be rated with either an A or B status. Most sponsors will be A-rated most of the time and this will make it easier for them to bring non-EEA nationals into the UK. A sponsor will become B-rated if he fails to comply with any of its duties and obligations under the PBS and will be required to comply with a time-limited action plan to regain an A-rating. Serial offenders may find that their sponsorship licence is ultimately withdrawn.
  10. Duties and obligations of the Sponsor.
  11. The Sponsor is responsible for:

    a. Record Keeping: Each sponsor must keep copies of each migrant's passport or UK immigration status document showing evidence of their entitlement to work or study. They must also keep the migrant's contact details and be in a position to co-operate with the Border and Immigration Agency by providing document they consider relevant, such as evidence of the sponsor's recruitment practices. It is also important to note that from 2008 non-EEA migrants will be required to hold UK biometric identity card and copies of these must be kept by the Sponsor.

    b. Reporting Duties: Sponsors must report to the Border and Immigration Agency if the sponsored migrant does not turn up for work or study, if he is absent for more than 10 working days without reasonable permission, if the migrant's job or course of study ends, if the Sponsor stops sponsoring the migrant, if there are any significant changes in the migrant's or sponsor's circumstances, or if the sponsor suspects the migrant is breaching his conditions of leave. This list is not exhaustive.

    c. Compliance with the law: Sponsors must ensure the migrant is lawfully able to work or study in the UK and must co-operate with the Border and Immigration Agency.

  12. Failure to comply with these duties and obligations will not only put the sponsors ability to issue certificates of sponsorship at risk, but will also open the sponsor up to possible civil and criminal liabilities. Compliance is therefore imperative under the PBS.

In Summary

The Statement of Intent offers the clearest guidance to date as to how sponsorship under the PBS will operate. The PBS is a significant departure from the current immigration system, as is the concept of 'sponsorship', accordingly great care must be taken to ensure full compliance under the new regime so that employers and educational institutions alike are able to efficiently and lawfully operate within the new legal structure. We expect further clarification from the Border and Immigration Agency in the coming months and will issue further guidance at that time.

This article is only intended as a general statement and no action should be taken in reliance on it without specific legal advice.

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