Over recent months we have seen a real increase in employers wanting to apply for a Home Office sponsor licence to enable them to recruit workers from overseas as they have been unable to find the skills that they need to fill roles in the UK.
In most cases, if an employer wishes to recruit a skilled worker from overseas they need to be registered with the Home Office as a licensed sponsor. Provided the role meets the eligibility requirements, a licensed sponsor may then issue a certificate of sponsorship to the candidate for the role, following which the candidate would need to apply for their visa.
Previously, the Home Office guidance provided that most sponsor licence applications would be determined within eight weeks, with applications for visas under the work and study routes, for those from outside the UK, being processed in around three weeks.
Recent guidance from the Home Office
However, the Home Office has recently updated its guidance, which has shown that there are increasing delays in the processing of visa applications, which may cause difficulties for employers that need to fill roles with overseas workers sooner rather than later. The delays are due to the fact that priority is being given to applications being made by those that want to come to the UK from Ukraine, to escape the conflict there. As a further consequence, it will no longer be possible to expedite applications by paying an enhanced fee.
The Home Office has reported that the processing times for overseas UK visa applications will now take around six weeks in most cases. Whilst there has been no official update in terms of the processing times for sponsor licence applications, many current sponsorship licence holders have received notifications to confirm that UK Visas and Immigration is experiencing an unusually high volume of applications and that because of this there may be delays.
What this means for you
Employers need to keep these longer processing times in mind, and ensure they factor this in to plans for the recruitment of overseas nationals. Therefore, if you have a recruitment project in mind where you expect that you will need to use the sponsor licence system, you should start preparing for this in sufficient time to ensure that the processing times do not cause an issue.