The UK’s immigration system has now changed since Brexit, with the introduction of a points-based system. What was previously a tiered system has now been transformed into a system based on points to ensure the benefit of attracting international talent as well as to maintain the integrity system. Additionally, it is also aimed that this system will become a much more streamlined and modern system.
In terms of sponsorships, the type of visas that require them is the Skilled Worker Visa, Health and Care Visa and Student Visa. Specific requirements vary, but sponsors must go through the required steps for work visas. Overall, the system has been seeing many benefits since the introduction of changes in December 2020. However, the UK is currently facing a widening skills gap in the workforce – which can be addressed with the Home Office’s plans to improve the visa sponsorship process further this year.
UK Skills Gap
There are many factors that contribute to the issue of the skills gap in the UK. Among the ones that have been frequently mentioned are the existing talent shortages, Brexit, older workers leaving the workforce earlier and rapid technological advancement since the pandemic. These factors have created a challenge for employers to hire suitable talent with the required skills, particularly in digital and tech roles.
This is an issue that must be addressed as the current rising costs have caused further strain for businesses. For this year, many have noted that the skills gap must be filled to help businesses survive.
Visa Sponsorship Changes in 2023
Previously the Home Office has introduced changes to the system which include:
- Removing the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT)
- Suspending the cap for skilled workers
- Streamlining and making the system accessible
These changes have been acknowledged as a success, with many experiencing a more efficient sponsorship process. The time required for the process of overseas applicants has also been reduced to only up to four weeks.
However, further changes are expected to be introduced in 2023. This includes efforts to improve compliance, with plans to have an integrated system to automate sponsor checks. Employers are urged to prepare by referring to the right-to-work checks guidance to maintain compliance.
Speeding up processing times is also a goal of the transformation of the system. Although the system has gone through streamlining, additional reforms are expected to be implemented this year or in 2024 to further speed up the process.
The delivery system for sponsors will also be transformed this year, with changes in the administrative process. New services called ‘Sponsor a Visa’ and ‘Manage a Licence’ are being introduced in 2023, with the aim to make admin tasks easier and quicker.
It is also expected for the Home Office with the commissioned firm the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to review the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) this year. This was placed on hold last year but the ongoing labour shortages may propel the review to happen this year.
Salary thresholds may also be reviewed this year as inflation rates continue to rise. With rising inflation, it is expected that the market rates for roles will increase. To ensure that sponsored workers are paid fairly, the threshold must align with current numbers.