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26 August 2020
The Home Office has started to make early contact with sponsors whose licences are due to expire before the end of 2020. These sponsors will be able to apply to renew their licences earlier than the usual maximum 90 days before expiry.
This should help to avoid delays at the end of 2020 when thousands of licences are up for renewal at the same time as European free movement ends for UK citizens. Sponsors should take this opportunity to consider the scope of the sponsor licences that they will need under the new immigration system from 1 January 2021.
Sponsors will benefit from an automatic four-year extension while the Home Office considers their application. This will be reversed if the sponsor's application is rejected due to paying the wrong fee. Therefore, sponsors should apply as early as possible so that if the application is rejected, it can be resubmitted with the correct fee before the licence expires.
The Home Office has stated that it will aim to review renewals within 10 working days of the application being submitted; however, consideration may take longer if further information is required or any issues are identified in the course of the initial assessment. When assessing the renewal application, the Home Office will review activity on the licence to check for any compliance concerns. Accordingly, sponsors should conduct a mock audit before submission to ensure their readiness.
For applications where no further action is required, the outcome of the renewal will be communicated to sponsors' Level 1 users via the sponsor management system screen headed "Applications and renewals tracking".
Now that the Home Office has confirmed the broad details of the new immigration system from 1 January 2021, sponsors should review existing licence details and apply for any additional licences to sponsor non-British (including EEA) migrants from the beginning of 2021. One area to consider is whether an existing intra-company transfer licence will need to be updated in order to transfer staff from group businesses located in Europe or whether a new licence will be required. Another issue to review is whether certificate of sponsorship allocations need be revised to take into account EEA nationals as well as Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) migrants who may wish to switch to the new skilled worker category.
The Home Office has also announced to sponsors via the sponsor management system that in-person compliance audits will shortly be resuming. The Home Office will comply with advice from Public Health England concerning wearing personal protective equipment and practising social distancing. Compliance officers will also observe additional COVID-19 safety measures that individual sponsors have in place.
For further information on this topic please contact Andrew Osborne, Naomi Hanrahan-Soar, Joanna Hunt or Stephen O'Flaherty at Lewis Silkin by telephone (+44 20 7074 8000) or email (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org). The Lewis Silkin website can be accessed at www.lewissilkin.com.
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