Concept for Business immigration update - Sept 2023

Welcome to our business immigration update. The Home Office has made several announcements in recent times which will impact businesses which employ, or are looking to recruit, migrant workers.

Home Office Fees and Immigration Health Surcharge

Firstly, the Home Office has yet again announced fee increases across the board. Whilst they have not yet provided the exact figures for many of the increased fees, they have said that the fee for assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) will increase by at least 20%. More information on the fee increases can be found here: More Visa Fees & Immigration Health Surcharge. At present, there has been no suggestion that the government intend to increase the Immigration Skills Surcharge, which is payable by businesses who hold a sponsor licence in certain circumstances, when they assign a Certificate of Sponsorship to a migrant worker.

Migrant workers applying to work in the UK on a Skilled Worker Visa will also see an increase of 15% to their application fees, and an increase of 40% to the Immigration Health Surcharge. The purpose of the Immigration Health Surcharge is to allow migrants to use the National Health Service. Not all applicants need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, but the majority of those coming to study, work or join family members do. The exception to this is for those with a Health and Care Worker visa, or their dependents.

We anticipate that the fee increase could take effect as soon as late September 2023. As such, our advice would be that if your business is considering recruiting a new migrant worker, applications which can be submitted in the next couple of weeks, are submitted as soon as possible to avoid these increased costs.

Civil penalties for illegal working to increase by tens of thousands of pounds

The Home Office has also announced a large increase to civil penalties for illegal working, which are due to take effect in early 2024. Civil penalties for employers will increase from £15,000 to £45,000 per illegal worker for a first offence, rising from £20,000 to £60,000 for repeated offenders or multiple breaches.

Since the start of 2018, almost 5,000 civil penalties have been issued to employers with a total value of £88.4m. An increase in civil penalties will undoubtedly cause even larger, more profitable employers to close if they were subject to the fines. The Home Office has further announced that immigration enforcement activity (which includes compliance visits) is at its highest levels since 2019, up 50% on last year. Carrying out compliant right to work checks on all employees before they start their employment (alongside follow-up checks for those with time sensitive right to work) can provide employers with a statutory excuse against a civil penalty, if it transpires that the employee is in the UK illegally.

Students switching to Skilled Worker visas

Finally, the Home Office has also announced that migrants in the UK on a Student Visa will not be able to switch to a Skilled Worker visa until they have finished their course. Previously, students could switch into a work route before the end of their studies. As of 17 July 2023, students will only be able to switch into work routes (including but not limited to the Skilled Worker, Global Business Mobility, Global Talent, Scale-up, Government Authorised Exchange and Creative Worker routes) if they have completed the course of study they are sponsored for. The same requirement applies for students wishing to “switch into” being a dependent of a person here on a work visa.

Our Immigration team has a wealth of experience in business immigration matters and will be able to advise your business on any of the subjects above, as well as corporate immigration more broadly.