Moving to a different country for a new job is very exciting but also requires a lot of planning and organisation. No matter how organised a person can be, experience shows things may not always go according to plan!

In this post, I discuss when a Skilled Worker can delay their work start date, the 28 day rule and the responsibilities of a Skilled Worker Sponsor.

Where can I find my work start date?

You can find your work start date on your Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), which you can request from your Sponsor. This is a mandatory document that you will need before you can apply for entry clearance (if you are outside the UK) or permission to stay (if you are inside the UK).

Your Sponsor will choose the start and end date on your CoS. Make sure to communicate with your Sponsor so they can choose a date which allows you time to make a well-prepared entry clearance/permission to stay application and to relocate to the UK. You should consider application processing times from where you are applying and whether any priority services are available.

Why is my work start date important?

You can only make an application for entry clearance / permission to stay within 3 months of your intended work start date. CoS can only be assigned with a work start date of no more than 3 months in advance.

When do I actually have to start working (the 28 day rule)?

Once you have been granted entry clearance/permission to stay you must start working within 28 days of whichever is latest:

  • The start day on your CoS (the Home Office will take account of any changes reported by your employer using a sponsor note, see below);
  • The "valid from" date on your entry clearance vignette (that's the sticker in your passport which is your visa);
  • If you entered the UK without entry clearance through the Creative Worker concession, the date you were granted permission to enter;
  • The date you were informed of the grant of your entry clearance or permission to stay.

This means that if your work start date is delayed by less than 28 days from the relevant date, you do not have to do anything. However, if you need to delay your work start date by more than 28 days, your Sponsor will need to consider what action they wish to take.

What happens if I need to delay my work start date beyond 28 days?

Your Sponsor is required to report a change in work start date to the Home Office. They can do this in two ways depending on the stage at which the start date changes.

If you have not yet applied for entry clearance/permission to stay, your Sponsor can add a sponsor note to the CoS. This should set out the new intended work start date and any reasons for delay.

If you have already applied for entry clearance/permission to stay, but you have not yet received a decision from the Home Office, your Sponsor must report the change using the "report migrant activity" function in the sponsor management system (SMS).

What happens if I cannot start working within the relevant period of 28 days?

If you cannot start working within the period of 28 days from the relevant date your Sponsor has two options:

  • If they want to keep sponsoring you, they must report the new work start date to the Home Office with reasons for your delayed start.
  • The other option is that they may choose to stop sponsoring you.

Whichever option your Sponsor chooses, they must report this by the end of 10 working days after the 28 day period using the "report migrant activity" function in the SMS.

What is a "valid reason" for a delay?

Examples of valid reasons include:

  • Travel disruption due to natural disaster, military conflict or pandemic;
  • You are obliged to complete your notice period for your previous employer, if you are in the UK check that your conditions of stay allow you to do this;
  • You need an exit visa to leave your country of residence and administrative delays meant that you did not get it on time;
  • Illness, bereavement or compelling family or personal circumstances.

This is not an exhaustive list and the Home office will consider each case on its own merits. We recommend that full reasons are provided to enhance the chance of the Home Office accepting the reasons for the delay.

What if the Home Office decides that I do not have a "valid reason" for the delay?

The Home Office may cancel your permission to stay if they decide that you do not have a valid reason for the delay, in which case your Sponsor will have to stop sponsoring you within 10 working days of the decision.

What options do I have if my entry clearance / permission is cancelled?

If your entry clearance / permission to stay is cancelled you may challenge this through administrative review or judicial review.

Administrative review is a process where you can challenge the Home Office's decision on the ground that it was wrongly decided because it contained one or more case work errors.

Judicial review is a process where you can challenge the Home Office's decision on the ground that it was unlawful, unreasonable or procedurally improper.

Alternatively, your employer may have to allocate you a new CoS and you will have to make a fresh application.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.