Synergy’s Spring Update

Company Update

Ever evolving Synergy​

It’s been a busy start to the year, and I would like to thank our loyal customers whose business and referrals are enabling us to grow from a start-up into a well-established business. We now have a permanent office space in Shoreditch once a week, as we love the area and enjoy hybrid working. I am so proud of my team who work together tirelessly to provide the best quality service and have created a great reputation for being responsive, thorough, and professional.

I’m excited that we’re currently recruiting an additional Immigration Adviser that can hit the ground running, as well as another administrator who will work alongside Faye and support our growing team. So, watch this space!

We recently passed an OISC audit – Hooray!

Applying for a Family Visa

I am delighted to announce that we have recently passed an OISC audit after they reviewed our policies and procedures to ensure that we are operating effectively. The OISC also assessed the competence of the advice we’re giving by selecting three random applications that we’ve worked on within the last year, and confirmed they are satisfied the cases were handled effectively. We are so relieved with this news and now understand the pressure our clients face ahead of a visit from the UKVI, investigating their sponsors’ licence.

Forthcoming UK immigration rule changes in 2024​

It would be fair to say that, in the last decade, the UK Immigration laws have continuously and drastically evolved. As we step into the year 2024, the current UK government has already quite evidently shown its dedication and commitment to reduce UK net migration. In December 2023, the UK Prime Minister and the Home Secretary announced their plan to cut migration levels significantly and prevent abuse of the UK immigration system.

Consequently, it is no longer a secret that Spring of 2024 will be vital as the UK immigration laws will yet again go through major transformations. In this article, I will provide you a timeline of the changes that have come into effect since January 2024 and the change to take place in March and April 2024.

I provide below a quick summary, the key dates and relevant changes to the Immigration Rules that business owners and migrants in the UK should be aware of:

  • 01 January 2024: UK Student visa holders can no longer bring their dependants whilst studying in the UK. The new rules are only applicable to any individuals who applied after 3pm on or after 17 July 2023 for a course commencing or after 01 January 2024.

  • 31 January 2024: Changes to Permitted activities for Visitors: right to work conditions for Visitors amended to allow remote working.

  • 01 February 2024: Formal implementation of Electronic travel authorisation (ETA) application process for nationals of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

  • 06 February 2024: Immigration Health Surcharge increased to £1,035 per year of the visa issued for adult applicants and £776 per year of the visa issued for child applicant.

  • 13 February 2024: Under the new Civil penalty regime, a UK employer may receive an increased fine from £20,000 to £60,000 for employing an illegal worker.

  • 11 March 2024: Care workers under occupation code 6145 and 6146 will be banned from bringing dependants to the UK. Care homes will also be heavily regulated and required to be registered with Care Quality Commission (CQC) to be able to sponsor care worker under Health and Care visa.

  • 14 March 2024: The current Skilled Occupation codes will be replaced by a new Immigration Salary list.

  • 04 April 2024: The minimum salary threshold for a Skilled Worker visa will be increased from £26,200 per annum to £38,700 per annum.

  • 11 April 2024: The minimum requirement for partners applying under Appendix FM will be increased from £18,600 to £29,000 per annum.

Changing ownership of your business can affect your licence ​

Applying for UK Visas

A sponsor licence is a privilege granted by UK Visas and Immigration (“UKVI”) to a UK company; it’s not an automatic right. In return for directly benefiting from migration, sponsor licence holders are required to comply with immigration rules and all UK laws and regulations generally. Therefore, a licence imposes huge responsibilities. UKVI carries out stringent checks on all sponsors to ensure that the system is not abused. If a sponsor is found to be in breach of its sponsor duties, the licence could be revoked and hence all sponsored visas could be cancelled.

A change to the business, sponsor licence, key personnel, sponsored employees, roles, etc, will most likely require some form of action, and at the very least will most probably need to be reported to UKVI. Please inform us before, or as soon as, a change takes place so we can advise and assist.

We take this opportunity to advise you specifically about dealing with a change in ownership of the business: Should there be a change of direct ownership of the business – i.e. because majority shareholding has been sold/ bought, there has been a merger or acquisition, a takeover, etc – the sponsor licence will be revoked. Sponsor licences are not transferable and therefore if you wish to continue sponsoring employees a new sponsor licence must be applied for by either the existing business (with its new shareholding), or the new business (which has taken over). This new sponsor licence application must be submitted within 20 working days of the change of shareholding. Once the new licence is approved, you must then apply to transfer all existing sponsored employees from the old licence to the new licence, if applicable. Alternatively, if there weren’t any sponsored employees under the licence, you may choose to notify UKVI of the change and surrender the licence. You may choose to consider re-applying for a new licence as and when required by your business.

If any of the following changes in ownership take place, a new licence may not be required but the change must still be reported to UKVI within 10 working days (this is a non-exhaustive list):

  • Minority shareholder(s) change
  • A change in ownership one step or level above (i.e. the owner of the owner of the sponsoring company)
  • The business is splitting out to form a new organisation
  • There’s been a partial takeover

When applying for a sponsor licence and throughout our involvement with our corporate clients, we continuously advise on sponsor duties and compliance. We take the responsibility of compliance very seriously to ensure our clients do not risk suffering any negative consequences on their licence and sponsored workers. However, If and when a change takes place, we rely on our clients to inform us as we would be unable to know otherwise. If you suspect a change above has taken place, or you intend to, please do get in touch so we can advise on the best course of action and assist. If you have any questions regarding compliance, please do not hesitate to contact your adviser. Please also familiarise yourself with Workers and Temporary Workers: guidance for sponsors Part 3.

Can I sponsor a family member?

Bringing Your Parents to the UK: Parent Visa

I’d like to address a burning question we’re asked by clients on a regular basis; Can I sponsor a family member? We’re often approached by small business owners struggling to find reliable settled workers to help run the show and wish to sponsor a family member whom they can depend on. After years of facilitating countless family sponsorships, I’m pleased to confirm the answer is YES! There is nothing in the immigration rules to prevent business owners sponsoring a relative, but if you’re the Authorising Officer on the licence, your relationship must be declared on your family member’s CoS and visa application. Moreover, the visa form asks if the applicant has any family members in the UK and using deception can lead to a 10-year ban, which is why honesty is critical from the outset.

Yes, it could lead to the UKVI investigating the application to ensure that the role is genuine, and it has not been created for the purpose of bringing family to the UK, but there is a lot to be said for peace of mind. We go to great lengths to ensure that sponsors meet the genuineness test, by focusing on the documents that the UKVI may ask to review e.g job description, CV, employment contract, qualifications and references. Such documents are required in line with Appendix D of the immigration rules and for compliance purposes, and should be held on migrant’s HR file for up to one year after their sponsorship has ended.

We have submitted countless applications for employers to sponsor family members and we have only seen one request for an interview with the UKVI. Following our advice, a client was transparent about sponsoring their sister throughout the application process and it led to an online interview. The aforementioned documents were sent in advance of the video call, and it became clear to the Entry Clearance Officer that the applicant has the relevant skills and experience to undertake the sponsored role with her brother and alas, the visa was granted! It goes to show that being transparent, really is the best policy.

How can we help?

At Synergy, we believe in empowering and supporting our clients in achieving life-changing events by providing bespoke UK Immigration services. We have an expert team of advisers with vast experience in UK immigration who provide tailored advice to every client. Should you need any help, please email your adviser, and they will arrange a time to discuss your concerns.

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