Sponsorship guidance was updated in April 2023. Many of the changes implement new Immigration Rules introduced the same month. Other changes to guidance go beyond the content of the new rules.
Immigration and Global Mobility Partner Samar Shams sets out the main changes.
Reporting home working
The Home Office has clarified reporting requirements relating to working remotely from home. Sponsors must report within 10 days if a sponsored worker's normal work location, as recorded on their Certificate of Sponsorship, changes. Sponsors have always had to report where a worker is working at a different location of the sponsors, or a different client site. The new guidance states that sponsors must also report where the worker is, or will be, working remotely from home on a permanent or full-time basis or has moved to a hybrid working pattern, e.g. where the worker will work remotely on a regular and planned basis from their home.
Opting out of Working Time Regulations
Where a sponsored worker will be working more than 48 hours per week, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) caseworkers are instructed to request a Working Time Regulations opt-out agreement signed by the sponsored worker. We recommend that sponsors have Working Time Regulations opt-out agreements in place before a worker submits their application for immigration permission. Where application processes allow for submission of supporting documents, the worker should submit the finalised Working Time Regulations opt-out agreement in support of their application for immigration permission. Otherwise, the worker should be ready for UKVI to request the opt-out agreement when deciding their application.
Compelling circumstances for absences
The guidance has changed on terminating sponsorship if a worker is absent from work without pay, or is on reduced pay, for more than 4 weeks in total. The general requirement to terminate sponsorship is now tempered not only with the list of acceptable reasons for such absences, but also with an allowance for 'compelling reasons' to continue sponsoring the worker. If a sponsor believes there are compelling reasons to continue sponsoring the worker, they must report the period of absence (including reasons, duration and any changes to salary) via the Sponsorship Management System. UKVI will consider the reasons given; they may still cancel the worker's permission if they are not satisfied there is a compelling reason for continuing to sponsor the worker.
Sponsors who host non-UK national interns under the Intern Visa Scheme will know that an internship must be 'supernumerary', i.e. over and above the employer's normal staffing requirement. Guidance on the term 'supernumerary' has changed. Caseworkers are instructed that the following may indicate that a role is not supernumerary:
- A salary high enough to meet the salary requirements on another sponsored work route; or
- Working hours exceeding 37 hours per week.
Reporting a change in size
The time period for a sponsor to report a change in the size of their organisation is amended from 10 working days to 20 working days.
In addition to the specific breaches of sponsor duties for which UKVI may revoke a sponsor licence, UKVI will now normally revoke a sponsor licence if they 'have reason to believe that [a sponsor] otherwise pose[s] any risk to immigration control'. Against the backdrop of a recent flurry of immigration enforcement activity, the new, catch-all reason for revoking a sponsor licence strikes an ominous note.
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.