UK Immigration Law Update

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Employers in the UK should be aware of key legal developments, including an increase in unannounced compliance visits and recent updates to the Sponsorship Management System.

Over the last few months there have been a number of developments impacting UK immigration law. This alert provides a roundup of the key issues employers need to be aware of.

Increase in Unannounced Compliance Visits

The UK Home Office has committed to undertaking an increased number of compliance visits in September and October 2013. Employers that have recently submitted a successful sponsorship licence application but that have not yet received a request for a compliance visit are likely to receive an unannounced compliance visit.

In preparation for an unannounced compliance visit, employers should ensure that their employee records are up to date and compliant and that they have systems in place to comply with the sponsorship duties.

Addition of Croatia to the European Union

On 1 July 2013, Croatia formally joined the European Union (EU). As a consequence, Croatian nationals now have the right to reside freely in any EU member state. However, there are restrictions upon Croatian nationals, and Croatian nationals typically must obtain permission to work.

In order to be employed in a skilled role, Croatian nationals must be issued a Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship. Thereafter, they must apply for a worker card before they can commence employment.

Croatian nationals who held certain UK immigration permissions before 1 July 2013 do not require a worker card.

New Priority Visa Service for Business Visitors

A pilot scheme has been introduced in India for the priority processing of business visitor visa applications. The Home Office aims to process these applications on the same day that they are received.

Launch of Passport Return Service Pilot

The Home Office has launched a pilot scheme for the return of passports to individuals who have submitted extension applications under Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) by post. Applicants will be able to have their passports returned to them within 7–10 working days of their application being received by the Home Office.

Once an individual has received his or her passport from the Home Office, the individual will be able to travel overseas whilst the application is under consideration if his or her current visa has not expired.

Individuals can apply up to three months in advance of the expiry date of their current visa.

Updates to the Sponsorship Management System

The Home Office has implemented a number of updates to the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). These updates include the following:

  • A message screen will be displayed for Level 1 users when they log in to the SMS. The message will detail upcoming events, current news, and frequently asked questions by other SMS users.
  • Important dates, such as the expiry of the sponsorship licence, will now appear in the "Licence summary" screen.
  • A licence renewal tracking utility, allowing users to track the status and outcome of outstanding applications, will be introduced.
  • The search function for Certificates of Sponsorship has been improved and an "advanced search" function, which includes a wider range of search parameters, has been introduced.
  • Certificates that have been drafted but not assigned can now be deleted.
  • The options for reporting migrant activity have been simplified.