Q&A with Deirdre Murphy & North Star Law on immigration post Brexit

23 June 2021

Following the UK’s exit from the EU, a new immigration system has been introduced for working, living and studying in the UK. Whether you’re a startup, want to know what organisations to register with or how to recruit staff from overseas there are various immigration routes and visa alternatives to consider. Companies often do not anticipate the time required for an immigration application to be processed but Deirdre Murphy, Solicitor at SCC member firm North Star Law, has the answers.

What do I as a UK employer need to consider when recruiting staff from overseas?
Timing is one of the main considerations at the outset. Companies often do not anticipate the time required for an immigration application to be prepared, submitted and processed. Some applications can be expedited, but at an additional cost.

Also, consider the long-term plans for the employee. Are they needed in the UK on a temporary basis or permanently? The visa type will vary. There may be other solutions that do not require sponsorship, for example UK Ancestry. Therefore, the advice to UK employers is to start the visa process early and engage with your immigration provider to determine the best approach.

What does it mean to be a licensed sponsor?
The Home Office’s position is that holding a sponsor licence is a privilege, not a right. Therefore, sponsors should take their responsibilities seriously. The licence will allow the company to sponsor foreign nationals to work in the UK, but it also comes with compliance obligations.

The compliance duties include having procedures in place to conduct the right to work checks and monitor sponsored workers. Failure to do so could result in the licence being revoked. Therefore, it is important for sponsors to identify any gaps in their systems and implement sufficiently robust procedures to ensure that the company is audit-ready at all times.

What are the most common visa options for employing from outside the UK, and what are the requirements?
For sponsored employees, the most common visa options are the Skilled Worker and Intra- Company.

A Skilled Worker visa can be used for individuals who have no prior experience with the company or for an existing employee. There must be a genuine job on offer in the UK, however the requirement to advertise the role and demonstrate that there are no suitable UK workers has been removed.

The role must meet certain salary thresholds – this will depend upon the job on offer. The job must be at least RQF level 3, which is roughly equivalent to A-levels. There is an English language requirement and this visa route leads to permanent residence.

An Intra-Company visa is for employees of international companies who transfer to the UK on short-term assignments from a related company abroad. The employee usually must have worked for an affiliated company outside the UK for 12 months. The role must be at skill level RQF6 (degree level roles). Again, the minimum salary depends upon the role, but it will not be less than £41,500 per year.

What do you need to consider as a startup?
Companies that do not yet have an established presence and have not actively traded in the UK, have the option of sending one senior level employee to the UK as a sole representative, in order to set up the company. The next step is to obtain a sponsor licence, in order to recruit from abroad.

The Start-Up and Innovator visas are for individuals who wish to set up and run an innovative business in the UK. Another option is the Global Talent route, for leaders or potential leaders in academia, research, arts, culture and digital technology. Each situation must be assessed on a case-by-case basis to determine the best option.

What are the fees involved and how long does the process normally take?
The fees will vary considerably depending on the visa type and duration. By way of example, a five-year Skilled Worker visa can incur fees of approximately £10,000. There may be additional costs, such as for an English language test or to expedite the visa application. If any family members accompany the main applicant, they would incur the visa and health surcharge fees. The visa process timing will depend on where the application is being submitted and can range from 2-4 weeks.

What organisations do I need to register with, as a new company in the UK?
From an immigration perspective, start-up companies will need to submit documents to obtain a sponsor licence, including evidence of a corporate bank account in the UK. Additional documents can include a VAT registration certificate, employer’s liability certificate, HMRC registration letter, or lease of business premises. New companies should take steps to register as early as possible and obtain the required documents to ensure that the licence application can be submitted without delay.

What are your top tips to UK employers that are looking to recruit from overseas?
Start the process early, determine the longterm aims of the potential new hire, and consult an immigration provider to undertake an assessment and explore all potential options.

About Deirdre Murphy

Deirdre Murphy, Solicitor at Noth Star Law, is a highly regarded immigration lawyer with extensive experience advising top-tier corporate clients on all aspects of UK business immigration law. She counselled clients through the complex process of Brexit, giving regular updates on the shifting timelines and requirements for foreign nationals to maintain legal status in the UK.

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