Human Resources

Visa guidance for managers and recruiters

If you’re a manager or recruiter at Sussex, find out about the points-based system that applies to EU nationals and rules for people with visas.

Background

The UK Government launched a new points-based immigration system on 1 December 2020, which includes the new Skilled Worker route.

This route replaced the Tier 2 route, which is the route we used for sponsoring visas for international staff members so they can live and work here in the UK.

Freedom of movement for EU nationals ended on 1 January 2021. This means any EU nationals who have not already established residence in the UK will have to apply for a visa to live and work here.

The exception to this is Irish citizens, who are exempt from visa requirements and don't need to demonstrate any additional documentation to live and work in the UK.


Understanding criteria for job applicants who need a visa

There are several things to be aware of when recruiting someone who needs a visa to work at Sussex.

Resident Labour Market Tests

Under the new Skilled Worker route, the Resident Labour Market Test has been scrapped. This means you no longer have to advertise your job for at least 28 days and in two different places.

This makes it easier to recruit the best international talent. Many managers will have had experience of trying to recruit a top applicant from overseas, only to discover that they can’t offer a higher salary as it wasn’t stated on the job advert, or they will have to do another round of advertisement in order to meet the 28-day minimum. These barriers have been removed.

The only requirement now is that the vacancy must be a genuine one. We will be able to evidence this by having clear job descriptions and robust recruitment exercises.

Salary requirements

Minimum salary requirements have increased for research- and teaching-based roles, which are the types of roles that we sponsor most frequently.

In order to gain the necessary points for salary, research roles must now pay at least £33,000 per annum. Teaching roles must pay at least £40,700 per annum.

However, a mechanism of "tradeable points" has been built in to the new Skilled Worker route to allow for some applicants to gain the 20 points for salary by other means, if the offered salary falls short of these minimums (see below).

Tradeable points

All applicants under the Skilled Worker route must gain the 70 points necessary in order to be eligible for sponsorship.

These "tradeable points" allow individuals who don’t quite meet the salary requirement to gain the necessary points by other means.

In most circumstances, an individual will gain 20 points by having a salary that meets the minimum requirement. However, if their salary is 90% of the minimum requirement, they will gain 10 points, and they can gain the other 10 by holding a PhD which is relevant to their job. If their PhD is in a STEM subject, then this will gain them 20 points, and their salary can go as low as 80% of the minimum requirement.

There is also a "new entrant" option for recent graduates and those under 26, where the salary requirement can be reduced to 70%.

We assign a Standard Occupational Classification code to all sponsorable jobs. This code determines the minimum salary that must be paid.

If your prospective employee would need to make use of tradeable points, email hrcompliance@sussex.ac.uk for further guidance.

Find out more about salary requirements and tradeable points.

Timings

Make sure you are clear on how long it takes for a visa application to be approved. Factor in this time when choosing a start date.


Visa options for prospective employees

The Skilled Worker visa is our standard route for sponsoring an individual from overseas.

However some individuals may be eligible for other, less restrictive types of visas depending on their personal circumstances or the type work they are doing.

  • Global Talent is for those who are leaders or potential leaders in their fields. It is not a sponsored visa and so doesn’t require a Certificate of Sponsorship, however in some cases we can supply a Statement of Guarantee for the applicant.
  • Tier 5 is appropriate for supernumerary research positions or collaborative research visits of no more than two years in length. It is not permitted to use this visa route in order to fill a genuine vacancy.
  • UK Ancestry is for any Commonwealth citizen who has a grandparent born in the UK.
  • Frontier Worker is for EU citizens who have worked in the UK before 31 December 2020, but are primarily resident overseas.

There are also a range of family and dependent visas available, however these are reliant on the applicant already having family in the UK.

Email hrcompliance@sussex.ac.uk if you or your prospective employee would like to discuss their visa options.

Old tier 2 visas

Staff will be able to retain their Tier 2 visas until they come up for expiry, at which point they will be able to extend their visas under the Skilled Worker route (or apply for settlement if they are eligible).

Limits on how many people you can sponsor

There is no limit to how many staff you can sponsor. However there are additional responsibilities that come with sponsoring international staff, so you should make sure you are able to adequately meet these responsibilities.


Communicating visa guidance to current staff

If you manage a sponsored visa-holder, make sure these guidelines are communicated regularly (for instance, termly) to them. This applies to sponsored visa-holders in Schools and Divisions.

Absences

Sponsored visa-holders should report all absences (i.e. annual leave, sickness, paternity, maternity, adoption leave) to their Line Manager immediately using the agreed absence monitoring policy for their School/Division. Schools and Divisions should contact sponsored visa-holders at least each term to request/confirm recent periods of leave.

Normal absence reporting

Sponsored visa-holders should follow the normal absence reporting procedures for their staff group for absences such as:

  • sickness
  • annual leave
  • maternity/paternity leave.

Records of absence must be readily available in personal files for audit purposes.

If a visa-holder’s salary or funding changes as a result of taking maternity, paternity, shared parental, adoption, or sick leave (i.e, a drop to statutory maternity pay, reduced pay while on sick leave or a period of unpaid leave) this must be reported to the International HR Team: InternationalHR@sussex.ac.uk.

The change should be reported within 5 days of the date of the change.

Failure to attend on the first day

If a visa-holder does not attend work on the first day stated on their Certificate of Sponsorship this should be reported to the International
HR Team at InternationalHR@sussex.ac.uk immediately.

Unauthorised absence

An unauthorised absence would occur when a sponsored visa holder fails to attend when attendance is expected and they have not communicated their absence to their School or Division. For example: a failure to deliver a timetabled lecture or tutorial, an unexplained absence from a conference or a committee meeting, an unexplained absence from work when attendance would normally be expected.

If an unauthorised absence appears to have occurred, the School or Division should contact the visa holder immediately to ascertain whether the absence is in fact due to normal work activity, illness or holiday. If an unauthorised absence of 10 consecutive working days or more occurs this should be reported to the International HR Team at InternationalHR@sussex.ac.uk within 5 working days of the tenth day of absence.

If an unauthorised absence of 10 consecutive days occurs but normal working is subsequently resumed, this must still be reported to the International HR Team.

Contact details

Contact details for sponsored visa-holders must be kept up to date. Sponsored visa-holders must be contactable within a reasonable period of time by email or phone.

Work-related travel

Normal work related travel, such as attending UK conferences, working from home or work meetings within the UK does not need to be recorded or reported. If the visa-holder is planning a trip where they will be unreachable by phone or e mail they must inform their Line Manager before they leave.

Unpaid leave

Sponsored Tier 2 and Tier 5 visa holders may not take unpaid leave amounting to more than four weeks in total, according to their normal working pattern*, in a calendar year (January-December) except in the case of maternity, paternity, shared parental, adoption, or sick leave – please contact the International HR Team at once if unpaid leave is being considered.

For example, if the normal working pattern was four days a week, the limit would be 16 days (four work weeks).

There have been some further changes to the immigration guidance which now allow additional exceptions to immigration consequences around the 4 week rule. These include:

  • Taking part in legal strike action
  • Where a sponsored worker undertakes assistance with a national or humanitarian or environmental crisis overseas, provided the employer agreed to the absence for that purpose

Sabbatical leave

If a sponsored visa holder plans to take a period of paid sabbatical leave please contact the International HR Team for advice.

Working remotely

HR Compliance can advise on the visa/Right to Work aspect of overseas working, however this does not make up the complete picture.

We must also take international tax regulations into account when considering work overseas, and as such we would need to seek individual advice for each case.

Please contact your HR Business Partner to discuss potential overseas working and what options are available.


Government guidance and helpful links

Contact

The HR Compliance team can assist with general queries about immigration, visa sponsorship, and Right to Work.

Email HRCompliance@sussex.ac.uk with your questions and any relevant background details. We will do our best to assist.

Note: We are not permitted to assist with individual visa applications or give specialist advice as we are not accredited by the OISC.