Immigration law remains a topical issue, not least because of Brexit.  Very recently, the Home Office announced changes to its Immigration Rules and some of these changes have far reaching consequences. They include;

1. Expansion of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL)

Positions in this list are recognised by the Government as having a shortage of skilled workers in the UK and consequently, employers are not required to advertise the role before being able to sponsor a worker.  They are not therefore required to complete the Resident Labour Market Test.  Many roles are now considered as shortage occupations and these include Medical Practitioners, various Engineers, IT Business Analysts, Architects & Systems Designers including Programmers and Software Developers.

Furthermore, restaurants which provided a take-away service could not sponsor skilled Chefs to work for them under the Tier 2 (Work Permit) Scheme but the Home Office have now changed the rules and therefore restaurants providing a take-away service are no longer prevented from sponsoring skilled Chefs.  However, there are a number of criteria which a skilled Chef will need to meet before being eligible for sponsorship under the Tier 2 Scheme.

2. Post Study Work Visa

Previously, the Home Office had a provision whereby international students who had graduated with a UK Bachelors degree could apply to remain in the UK in order to work for a further 2 years after their graduation.  This scheme was abolished by the previous Prime Minister, Mrs Theresa May.  The new “graduate” visa route will be open to all international students who will graduate in the Summer of 2021 or later from a prescribed list of Higher Education providers but students who are currently in their final year of University or whose Tier 4 permit expires before the route launches in the Summer of 2021 will unfortunately not be able to benefit from the new route.

The introduction of this route will mean that students will not require sponsorship from either an employer or a Higher Education provider in order to work in the UK and they will have permission to live and work in the UK for up to two years following graduation and during this time, they may be able to switch into the Tier 2 (Work Permit) scheme.

3. Illegal Workers

The Home Office has published its latest report showing the number of Civil Penalties which they have issued for illegal workers found across the UK between 1 January 2019 and 31 March 2019.  During this period, in the Midlands and Eastern England region, the Home Office issued 88 penalties having detected 123 illegal workers.  The total value of the penalties issued by the Home Office was in excess of £1.5m. These figures are only second to the London and South-East region.

Despite the Governments focus on Brexit, it is clear with the latest figures that there is no let up insofar as the Home Office are concerned in targeting what it deems as “rogue employers”.

Employers must therefore continue to conduct rigorous Right to Work Checks and ensure that they comply with all of their Right to Work obligations.  An employer can be fined up to £20,000.00 for employing an illegal migrant and for those employers who knowingly employ such migrants, there are also criminal sanctions.

4. Sponsor Licence Holders and Their Record Keeping Duties

A number of changes have been introduced but an important one is regarding the Sponsors duty to check the date their migrant employee entered the UK to ensure that they entered during the validity of their visa. Generally, this would be a relatively simple process because this can be done by looking at the Entry Stamp endorsed by an Immigration Officer in the migrants passport.  However, what with the introduction of E-gates, it is quite possible that migrants will not have an Entry Stamp endorsed in their passport. Sponsors must ensure that even where there is no stamp in the migrants passport confirming their entry into the UK, they check the date of entry by requesting other documentary evidence which could include travel tickets or a boarding pass.  Once this evidence has been checked, Sponsors are required to make a note of the date and it would be advisable to retain copies of any additional evidence which a Sponsor views to confirm this.