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The Home Office now say there is no need to “panic” on sponsor registration, but employers are still in the dark as to whether or not they need to register as sponsors.

In an article which appeared in Personnel Today, it was reported that a senior Home Office immigration figure has assured employers that there is no need to panic about the Tier 2 and Tier 5 of the points-based system, which kicks in across the UK next month.

By the end of November in just over six weeks time, Tiers 2 and 5 of the points-based scheme, set to limit the numbers of migrant workers coming to the UK, will have been launched. Employers wishing to hire skilled workers from outside the European Union and EEA will need to be registered as sponsors.

The Government has run a major advertising campaign to encourage employers to register by 1 October in order to be in a position to sponsor migrant workers from the launch date. Despite this, less than 300 organisations have been granted sponsorship licences, leaving up to 60,000 employers still to apply.

Home Office Director of immigration, Matthew Coats, told Personnel Today:

“We’re satisfied with the number of employers applying to become sponsors. Not everyone will need foreign workers on day one [of the new system].”

Coats explained that many migrant employees’ holding current work permits which would not run out for a few years, means there is no rush to move across to the new system. He also quashed fears from legal experts about a huge bottleneck of applications leading to delays.

“The overlap (between the old and new system) will depend on individual workers, but we don’t anticipate there to be a big problem,” he insisted.

Employers hiring migrant workers illegally face fines of up to £10,000 per worker under the law introduced in February. But Coats said the government out to help employers comply.

Many employers are confused as to whether they need to register as sponsor under the new system at all.

Cynthia Barker, Immigration Adviser at healthcare recruitment specialist Bison UK, said she had received dozens of calls from worried employers and managers in the care industry asking if they need to register in respect of existing staff employed on Work Permits or Student Visas.

“Some of our clients employ Senior Carers and Nurses on Work Permits which will take the worker beyond five years of continuous work in the UK, making them eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

“In other words, they will not need to renew their Work Permits at all, and unless they are planning to recruit new overseas workers, almost impossible for Senior Carers, there is no need to register at this stage.

Cynthia believes the UK Border Agency (UKBA) information is not very clear on this issue, leaving employers confused.

“The Home Office use terms like ‘employing migrant workers’ when referring to registering as sponsors, but fail to distinguish between existing and new migrants or, for that matter, students who have permission on their own visas.”

Publications, such as the 50 page Command Document ‘Making Migration Work for Britain, do not make it clear to employers that they only need register to cover new, as opposed to existing, non-EU skilled workers.

The ‘Becoming a Licensed Sponsor’ section, together with a slick UKBA video, of the UK Border Agency website goes into great detail on the new system and sponsorship, but give little information on existing permit holders and any transitional measures.

The ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section misses the vital question on employer’s minds: “Do I need to register as a sponsor to cover existing migrant workers from outside the EU?”

Earlier today I called the sponsors helpline (08450 106677), which was obviously busy and had an estimated wait time of 40 minutes. I eventually spoke to Lynne, one of the customer service advisers in the sponsor section, who told me that employers could register at any time three months prior to hiring migrant workers. She went on to confirm that employers do not need to register to cover existing Work Permit holders, unless they wanted to extend those permits.

She confirmed that international students have their own permission to work, as part of their Student Visa or Further Leave to Remain (FLR). I pointed out that whilst immigration advisers were aware of this fact it was not so obvious to busy employers and should be clarified on the UKBA website.

Some Managers and HR directors have warned that the sponsorship application process is too confusing, and are encouraged to contact the national helpline on 08450106677 or visit

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Posted on Oct 14, 2008 - Last updated on Jul 28, 2009

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