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Sponsoring Immigrant Workers in the UK

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 13 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Uk Immigration Employer Worker

Employers who wish to employ certain categories of immigrant workers must satisfy a number of requirements in order to do so. Similar rules apply to those who wish to sponsor foreign students in the UK. Individuals working in the UK under any Tier of the points-based immigration system, apart from Tier 1 – highly skilled individuals, must be sponsored by their employer. Some Tiers of the immigration system are regularly closed or modified to address particular needs and concerns in the UK labour market.

Anyone employing immigrant workers has a duty to ensure that the workers are in the UK lawfully. A range of civil and criminal penalties can be applied to those who employ people who do not have the legal right to work in the UK.

Applying for a Licence to Sponsor Migrant Workers

Prior to sponsoring a foreign employee an employer must obtain a licence, which confirms that he is eligible to sponsor foreign workers. Licence-holders will be permitted to sponsor a limited number of immigrant workers and must monitor their foreign employees to help ensure that no immigration fraud is being committed.

When considering applications for a licence the UK Border Agency will have to determine whether the applicant is a legitimate organisation, with the intention and infrastructure necessary to satisfy its duties as a sponsor. On-site checks may be carried out prior to a decision being made.

Applicants may be given an A-rating, a B-rating, or have their application refused. A B-rating may be given to those applicants who need to modify their systems in order to be given the top rating for sponsors.

Applications for a sponsorship licence are made online via the UK Border Agency’s website. The fee for a sponsorship licence ranges from £300 to £1000, dependent on the categories of worker to be sponsored and the size of the company or organisation applying for the licence. The fee and supporting documents must be sent in within 10 working days of completing the online application process.

Employing Immigrant Workers – The Resident Labour Market Test

Before employing immigrant workers, employers must usually carry out the resident labour market test. This is done to show that the job could not be filled by a worker already resident in the UK. To satisfy the test, employers must first advertise the job in the UK according to the specific code of practice applying to that Tier of the immigration system and the particular job. Most jobs must now be advertised through JobCentre Plus and one other authorised method of advertisement.

The job must be advertised at the appropriate level of wage or salary for that job in the UK to ensure that the employer is not using immigrant workers to undercut the local workforce. A job must be filled by a foreign worker within six months of completing the resident labour market test for the test results to be valid.

Employing Immigrant Workers – The Shortage Occupation List

From time to time the Migration Advisory Committee issues a shortage occupation list. This contains jobs or occupations which cannot readily be filled from the UK’s resident labour market. Employers do not have to satisfy the resident labour market test before employing immigrant workers to fill jobs contained on the list.

Issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship

If a licensed employer can show that they have satisfied the resident labour market test, or that the particular job they are filling is exempt from the test, they may then issue a certificate of sponsorship for a foreign worker to fill that role.

An immigrant worker who wishes to come to the UK as a sponsored employee will still have to satisfy immigration requirements in their own right before coming to the UK. By issuing a certificate of sponsorship, an employer gives a prospective employee a unique reference number which they can then use as part of the application process to come to, or stay in, the UK as a migrant worker. Once a certificate of sponsorship number has been issued the employer should send it to the prospective employee so that they can complete their application. In most cases the certificate is valid for three months from the date on which it is issued.

Certificates of sponsorship are issued using the sponsorship management system. This is a computerised system which can only be accessed by licensed employers. The system is also used by employers to manage their immigrant workers.

The Ongoing Duties of Sponsors

Sponsors of immigrant workers have an ongoing duty to monitor their employees, and their own systems, to ensure that the immigration rules are being followed. Employers must also co-operate fully with the immigration authorities. A sponsor’s duties include the responsibility to monitor any criminal convictions of employees, unauthorised absences from work and unused sponsorship certificates.

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