There are a number of important forthcoming changes affecting businesses which hold a sponsor licence and which employ overseas nationals. The key changes to look out for are set out below.
Sponsor licence renewals
Sponsor licences currently have to be renewed every four years. However, in a surprise move, the Home Office recently announced that this will no longer be the case from 6 April 2024 and that sponsor licences which are due to expire on or after 6 April 2024 will be automatically extended by 10 years. However, if your organisation's sponsor licence expires before 6 April 2024 you will need to extend this in the usual way before the expiry date. If you fail to do so the sponsor licence will expire and your organisation will not be able to sponsor overseas nationals.
If you are not sure when the sponsor licence is due to expire we strongly recommend that the Level 1 User logs into the sponsorship management system and checks the expiry date.
Increase to the Immigration Health Surcharge
With effect from 6 February 2024, this will increase to:
- £776 for students, student dependants, Youth Mobility Scheme applicants and dependants under the age of 18; and
- £1,035 for all other non-exempt applicants, including main applicants in work/sponsored routes
Increase to civil penalties for illegal working
From 13 February 2024, the maximum civil penalty for employing an illegal worker will triple, from £20,000 to £60,000. This means it is even more key to ensure that your organisation is undertaking fully compliant right to work checks for all employees before they start work (and again prior to expiry of their leave if they have limited immigration permission) so that you are able to establish a statutory excuse against a civil penalty should the person later transpire to be working without immigration permission.
There have been significant changes to right to work checks in recent years so please contact us if you'd like advice in reviewing your right to work check processes.
Changes impacting carers and senior carers and care homes
Any carer or senior carer wishing for their partner or child to accompany them to or join them in the UK should ensure that the dependant application is submitted before 11 March 2024. This is because partners and children of carers and senior carers will no longer to be eligible to apply as Skilled Worker dependants from 11 March 2024.
In addition, it is anticipated that the sponsor guidance will be amended to require care home sponsors to be registered with the Care Quality Commission to sponsor carers or senior carers from 11 March 2024.
Changes to the Skilled Worker route from 4 April 2024
The Home Office has indicated that updated Immigration Rules will be published on 14 March 2024 to bring into effect the proposed changes to the Skilled Worker route.
We understand that the following changes in relation to the Skilled Worker route are due to take effect from 4 April 2024:
- Increase to the general annual salary threshold from £26,200 to £38,700
- Amendments to the going rate salary levels for each SOC Code
- Abolition of the 20% salary discount for shortage occupations
- Replacement of the Shortage Occupation List with the Immigration Salary List