UK employers: only three weeks to apply for sponsorship licences

As we organise ourselves for the next wave of UK immigration changes to take effect, there's some worry that the people who will be most affected by the introduction of Tier 2 are also the ones least prepared.

I say this after I saw some alarming reports that stated by mid-August, there were still only 170 employers that had applied for a sponsorship licence. While I'm sure that this figure has gone up since then (especially with the recent television campaign launched by the UK Border Agency), it's vital that UK employers looking to employ non-EU migrants understand the preparations they need to make. A sponsorship licence is essential for any employer looking to hire migrants under the new Tier 2 system.

I'm not alone in my concern, as the Home Office is worried that a mad flurry of late applications for sponsorship licences will have a bottleneck effect and cause disruption to the skilled migration program.

UK business owners have been warned by the Home Office that their sponsorship licence applications must be received no later than October 1.  Employers without a sponsorship licence will be heavily penalised if they hire illegal workers and will be banned from employing workers from outside the EEA if caught doing so.

Bearing in mind these severe penalties for non-compliance, I think it should be evident just how vital it is for all employers and educational establishments to comply with the requirements of sponsorship. Simply put, if you enrol or employ any non-EU citizen who does not have settled status in the UK, then you are legally entitled to have a sponsorship licence.

As a UK immigration law specialist, I can provide assistance in successfully applying for the initial licence, as well as the ongoing compliance requirements for employers and educational establishments. However, as the deadline fast approaches, I worry that there could be a lot of disappointed employers and migrants alike come October 1.

- Marissa Murdock is the Casework Department Manager for the UK Visa BUreau. To contact the UK Visa Bureau, complete a UK visa application.