What's on the horizon in Business Immigration during 2023 and beyond?

2023 Expected Trends

  • The government are likely to continue to struggle with conflicting goals of addressing skills shortages while also bringing down net migration.
  • There is a 65% increase in the number of sponsor licence holders since the end of 2020, as such we expect there to be an increase in sponsor compliance visits, to check duties and responsibilities are being adhered to.
  • Levels of corporate restructuring are likely to remain high and this could result in sponsors needing to make reports to the Home Office and/or apply for a new sponsor licence, subject to their circumstances.

From 1 January 2023, sponsors with a licence to hire under the Global Business Mobility route, Senior or Specialist workers will be exempt from paying the Immigration Skills Charge if:

  • the certificate of sponsorship (CoS) is assigned on or after 1 January 2023;
  • the worker is a national of an EU country or a Latvian non-citizen (nationals of Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland are excluded);
  • the worker is being assigned to the sponsoring UK business by an EU-based business within the same group; and
  • the assignment is for no more than 36 months, as confirmed by the CoS start and end dates.

This is welcome news for sponsors as this could result in huge costs savings for the business where there is no intention for the worker to settle in the UK.

A new scheme will be rolled out requiring permission to be given in advance of travel to the UK in the aim of preventing the arrival of those who present a threat. This should reduce the amount of people who need to be detained at the border hence reducing the overall cost to taxpayers.

The ETA is a form of digital approval for travel for non-visa national visitors. Non- visa nationals are those who can enter the UK without a visa. A list of eligible countries who will need to apply is yet to be confirmed.

The application process will require provision of biographic, biometric and contact details, and the completion of a short set of suitability questions. If approved, the ETA should be received within 48-72 hours of submission of the application. However, note this will only authorise the individual to board a carrier of travel to the UK.

Some other details are also yet to be confirmed including the cost of an application and the period of authorisation. However, it is expected the cost will be competitive with other schemes and the approval will last for a period of 2-3 years.

The ETA will be rolled out in phases with a private beta testing phase expected in Q1 and then further roll out throughout the year. The aim is for all travellers, by the end of 2023, to need a British or Irish passport, eVisa or ETA at the point they enter the UK. As the testing phase progresses, we would expect some time delays to address problems, based on this currently very optimistic timescale.

A new service is due to be launched in early 2023, where part of the online application form will already be populated for the visa applicant, so there is less for the applicant to complete which will avoid duplication of information from the sponsor and the applicant. Sponsors need to be aware of this change and may need to adjust their internal processes accordingly.

Some of the changes that Home Office has agreed to following the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) review of immigration in the agricultural sector will likely come to fruition.

A team will be formed to monitor and implement changes such as identifying training needs for compliance officers, creating clear operating mandates, creating robust actions for operators where guidance is not followed and by ensuring that compliance visits are driven by intelligence. They have also agreed to publish a communications and engagement roadmap for the agricultural sector and review the seasonal worker route, both by April 2023.

A service will be launched to allow better management of post licence activities including the ability to report changes, add users to their licence and will include prompts for required action.

 By the end of 2024, Biometric residence permits (BRPs), and biometric residence cards (BRCs) are due to be phased out, with many holders’ immigration permission expiring after this date. Although most of these individuals can now evidence their right to work online, their ability to travel out of the UK remains dependant on them travelling with their BRP or BRC. We are awaiting communication from the Home Office on the next steps migrants must complete to be able to prove their immigration status and travel out of the country beyond 31 December 2024.

A new service will be launched for those intending to become sponsor licence holders that will incorporate automated checks in the hope of cutting down case working times and abuse of the system.

How can your business prepare for these changes?

Increased compliance activities - Attend training refreshers on sponsor duties and/or implement mock Home Office audits.

Sponsor a Visa Package - Keep an eye out for the 'Sponsor a Visa' package and consider whether internal process changes will be required.

ETA Scheme - Ensure non-visa national employees that are travelling overseas for business know about and arrange a valid ETA before travelling back to the UK; and consider the application fees in budgets.

The Home Office is ploughing on with its proposals to substantially reduce processing times, simplify the application process for visa applicants and modernise the sponsorship IT systems for sponsors. The UK government's latest strategy can be found here.

Although the groundwork for these changes is beginning in 2023, the Home Office has acknowledged that a fully transformed sponsorship system will now be in place by 2025 (not by 2024 as previously stated).

If you have any questions on the above developments or have general business immigration queries, please do get in contact with Gemma Robinson or Laura Tunks.