Friday, 24 October 2014

Complex immigration rules made simpler with expert legal advice

The subject of immigration is rarely out of the news. Having gained first-hand experience in business immigration matters while with the top ranked B P Collins LLP employment group, I can see why.

The rules on immigration are in a constant state of flux. This year alone, we have seen the introduction of the Immigration Act 2014, changes to the Immigration Rules and changes to several of the policy guidelines, to name but a few. How does anyone keep up?

The changes reflect the Government's tougher stance on immigration as well as a shift of responsibility onto those who directly benefit from migration, for instance employers and education providers.

In most circumstances, a business that wishes to employ workers from outside of the European Economic Area ('EEA') must apply for a sponsor licence.

I have assisted with one of our business immigration matters from start to finish and soon realised that obtaining a sponsor licence is not as straight forward as it might seem at first glance.

Our client is the UK branch of a USA parent company that wished to bring an experienced employee of the USA parent company into the UK to train its employees.

Before considering an application for a sponsor licence, we reviewed our client's contracts and handbooks, advised on the suitability of different visas for its intended migrant worker and assessed whether the proposed migrant was eligible under the Points Based System ('PBS').

Each type of migrant visa requires the migrant to meet specific qualifications and remuneration in accordance with the PBS. After all, there is little point in applying for a sponsor licence if the intended migrant does not meet the requisite requirements for the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) or the visa application.

After obtaining the sponsor licence, we advised our client on how to assign a CoS to the USA migrant worker through the Sponsorship Management System.

As well as advising our client, we also liaised directly with the USA migrant to ensure all of her paperwork was in order in preparation for her visa application.

Any inaccuracies could have resulted in our client's sponsor licence application being rejected or the intended migrant being unsuccessful. Thankfully, it all went off without a hitch!

We also advised our client on its continuing responsibilities as a sponsor licence holder. The home office has powers to downgrade, suspend and revoke sponsor licences where they believe the employer to be in breach of the licence conditions.

As recently as 4 September 2014, UK Visa & Immigration (UKVI) has introduced further guidance on the responsibilities of those who sponsor migrant workers, with an emphasis on the repercussions of failing to meet them.

The guidelines reflect changes that were arguably already in motion. Statistics released on the show a 178.4% increase in Tier 2 and Tier 5 sponsor licence suspensions from the third quarter of 2013 to the fourth quarter.

Sponsor licence holders should take heed of the recent changes and last year's statistics. It is essential that all licence holders are aware of their increased responsibility. They must have the appropriate procedural compliance checks in place to ensure they are successful in their application for a sponsor licence and to avoid their licence subsequently being downgraded, suspended or revoked.

Posted by Rebecca Mitchell, trainee in the employment practice group.

Rebecca started her training contract in September 2013 after graduating from Newcastle University with a 2:1 (BA Hons) in History. She undertook the Graduate Diploma in Law at Kaplan Law School and has recently completed the Legal Practice Course with distinction.

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