Virginia, US

Nov 20 2020

UK Government Releases New Guidance for Employers Ahead of Upcoming New Immigration System

United Kingdom

At a Glance:

  • The new guidance for employers clarifies many practical questions arising from the wide-ranging changes to the UK immigration rules that form the basis of the new immigration system taking effect on December 1, 2020.
  • The guidance includes information about the conversion of existing Sponsorship Licences into the new system; extending electronic filing processes that were introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; and new employer reporting requirements.

The situation

The UK government has published new guidance for employers, following the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules which were announced in October 2020. Applications under the new system will open on December 1, 2020 for non-EEA nationals. EEA nationals will be eligible to apply under the new system starting January 1, 2021. Irish nationals will not require a visa or permission to work.

A closer look

Further details published in the new guidance include the below:

Change Impact

Transitional arrangements.

  • Existing Tier 2 and Tier 5 sponsors will automatically have their licence and any outstanding Certificates of Sponsorship/Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship converted under the new system.
  • Any unassigned Tier 2 General or Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) will be converted to Skilled Worker and Intra-Company Transfer CoS under the new system.
  • Existing sponsor licences that are currently suspended will only have their licence updated once reinstated.
  • Companies already holding Tier 2 or Tier 5 Sponsorship Licences will not have to take proactive steps to maintain their licence status under the new system.
  • The Sponsor Management System will be unavailable to existing sponsors between 19.00 GMT on Friday, November 27 and 09.00 GMT Tuesday, December 1, 2020. If a sponsor’s licence is due to expire within this period, their licence will be temporarily extended for a period of seven days.

Electronic Sponsor Licence application process. The temporary electronic application processes that the UKVI introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will be available as a permanent filing option.

The electronic filing option makes the process of submitting supporting documentation to the UKVI easier for employers.  

Changes to employer reporting requirements.

  • All changes in salary must now be reported, even if just part of an employee’s annual appraisal cycle;
  • There is an expanded list of company-level changes, such as those arising from corporate restructurings, that trigger a need to report, even if sponsored individuals are employed by the same employer; and
  • Any reported changes to a company’s key personnel will update automatically in the SMS, if the company’s licence has been valid since 2009.

Employers should be aware of all Sponsor Licence reporting duties and have processes in place that ensure relevant changes are brought to the attention of the staff members who are responsible for reporting these changes. 

Focus on compliance. The UK government will continue to focus on UK Sponsors only issuing CoS’s to fill genuine vacancies for employment under the new system. 

Employers must continue to ensure that sponsorship is provided only where they meet the salary and skill level criteria of the chosen immigration route.



The current Conservative government made the launch of a new skilled immigration system by 2021 a key promise during the 2019 general election. In October 2020, the UK government published the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules which set out the legal framework for the new immigration system.

Looking ahead

Applications under the new system will open on December 1, 2020 for non-EEA nationals. For EEA nationals, they will be eligible to apply from January 1, 2021. Irish nationals will not require a visa or permission to work.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact your Fragomen immigration professional or send an email to [email protected].