The latest changes to UK immigration law

Alexandra MacMahon and Vikki Wiberg explain the seemingly small developments in the new points-based visa system that could have a big impact on unsuspecting sponsors

End of adjusted right to work checks

The Home Office has announced that the adjusted right to work regime, introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic, will end on 16 May 2021. From 17 May, companies will need to undertake the usual right to work checks again. 

The Home Office has, unexpectedly, confirmed that those who took advantage of the adjusted right to work check regime do not need to repeat right to work checks for impacted employees hired between 30 March 2020 and 16 May 2021. 

The removal of the resident labour market test? 

When the skilled worker visa route replaced Tier 2 general on 1 December 2020, one welcome change was the removal of the prescriptive resident labour market test (RLMT). This was thrown into confusion when, three weeks later, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) reinserted a requirement to retain RLMT documents (even for roles that previously didn't require advertising). It was unclear whether employers sponsoring a skilled worker needed to undertake an RLMT or not. 

After lobbying, UKVI has revised its Appendix D guidance to confirm that sponsors are not required to undertake a formal RLMT before sponsoring skilled workers. If a vacancy has been advertised and is later offered to an individual needing a skilled worker visa, UKVI will expect to see evidence of the recruitment activity. If sponsors do not advertise roles, they must evidence how they recruited the worker (eg, they are already employed on a different visa route). In all cases, sponsors must ensure they can demonstrate the roles are genuine. 

International graduate visa 

Employers will be pleased to see the resurrection of a post-study worker visa from 1 July 2021. International students can switch to this visa if they have completed an eligible course. Unlike the post-study work route (which ended in 2012), there is no financial maintenance test, nor is a sponsor needed. 

Holders can reside and work or study in the UK for two years after their studies (three years for doctoral students). Holders will then be able to switch to a skilled worker visa under the new entrant route, with a lower minimum salary. 

A key advantage for graduate employers is that they don't need a sponsor licence for these visa holders and are not required to pay the immigration skills charge of up to £1,000 a year. As time on a graduate visa doesn't count towards settlement, some may prefer to move straight to skilled worker visas to work towards settlement sooner.

UKVI to resume sponsor audits

As lockdown restrictions ease, UKVI has resumed audits, assuring sponsors it will comply with Public Health England advice and the measures the sponsor has in place to protect its workforce. With most companies allowing people to work from home, audits may be pre-arranged. 

This is a good time to conduct an internal audit. Have you downsized to new premises or surrendered your office lease while employees work from home? If so, you must update the UKVI to remain compliant with your sponsor duties. Non-compliance could result in your licence being downgraded or revoked. UKVI's Covid-19 guidance still confirms you do not need to update where a sponsored migrant is working from home because of the pandemic. 

After a year of disrupted visa processing and impacted services, the Home Office seems to be looking to the future. This is an opportune time for all sponsors to review and assess their internal systems and recruitment processes to ensure that all necessary visa notifications have been made in the last year and any recruitment, particularly graduate hiring in the next few months, uses the new visa routes. 

Alexandra MacMahon is immigration adviser and Vikki Wiberg senior counsel at Taylor Wessing