At last there is some good news from UKVI. The Home Office has confirmed that a new priority service for Tier 2 and Tier 5 sponsors of migrant workers is available from 7 November 2016 at a cost of £200 per request.
The new service is only available to A-rated Tier 2 and Tier 5 sponsors who can now make expedited applications for the following services:
- requesting additional in-year allocations (so called unrestricted certificates of sponsorship);
- adding a new level 1 user to the sponsor management system;
- replacing the authorising officer.
The current service standard is 18 weeks (just over four months) and the new priority service will offer a welcome speed up to the habitual unhurried tempo of the Home Office. Priority requests will be considered within five business days.
The Home Office will accept a maximum of 20 priority requests each day (Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm). Once an application is submitted the applicants will receive a telephone number to call and check if their application fell within the lucky number. Card payment will be taken over the telephone from successful applicants. Those who fell outside the first 20 applications will be eligible to repeat their request the next day.
Refunds are promised where a decision cannot be reached within five working days due to UKVI technical difficulties.
Unfortunately priority service is not available for applicants for a sponsorship licence. Nor is it of help with applications for restricted certificates of sponsorship.
However, employers who urgently need an allocation (for example, in order to employ a Tier 4 student who is switching into a Tier 2 category, or in order to employ a Tier 2 migrant who was previously employed by another sponsor) will find this service will worth the £200 charged.
The service is absolutely crucial for migrants already working in the UK: an employer who does not have an available (unassigned) allocation cannot support a visa extension application for an existing employer, nor can they take new staff already on a Tier 2 scheme with a different employer. And not only Tier 2 visa holders are required to leave the country if their visa cannot be extended in time, they are also not allowed to come back for 12 months after they left the UK.
Adding a new Level 1 user may also involve some drama, since only authorised personnel is allowed to use the SMS and lawyers cannot be added as Level 1 users of their clients SMS at the stage of sponsor licence application, so there is always a gap between receiving the licence and appointing a lawyer to operate it.
Full details of the new service can be found on the government website.
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