Acquiring a sponsorship licence is a significant step for UK companies aiming to employ skilled workers from other countries. But with the privilege of sponsorship comes the commitment to adhere to a set of responsibilities. To keep the licence valid and to be allowed to renew it, the UK sponsoring company must comply with sponsor licence duties.
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This guide will inform potential and existing sponsor licence holders about their duties, what happens when failing to comply, and more.
When Do Sponsor Licence Duties and Responsibilities Start?
As soon as you get your sponsorship licence, your duties start. They last from the day you get your licence until the day it’s either given up, becomes inactive, or is taken away.
But here’s a thing to remember: even before you officially get your licence, there’s some work to do. During the initial sponsor licence application, you need to show proof of certain steps you’ve taken related to immigration rules. Simply put, you need to be ready and show that you can follow the rules even before your licence is approved.
Now, when it comes to individual employees you’re sponsoring, your duties for them begin the moment you give them the Certificate of Sponsorship. It ends when the employee’s UK stay permission expires, or they leave the country. It could also end if they’re denied permission to enter or stay in the UK and have no more chances to appeal that decision.
Moreover, if they find another sponsor or if you tell the Home Office you’re no longer sponsoring them, your duties towards that employee stop. Simply put, being a sponsor means you have ongoing duties from the start of the application process and through each worker’s time in the UK.
Sponsor Licence Holder Duties
There are clear benefits of having a UK sponsor license, however every UK business that acquires one should be deeply aware of the responsibilities that come with it. The Home Office has stringent requirements in place to ensure compliance, and failure to do so can lead to serious consequences, including licence revocation.
Let’s explore specific areas of duties and compliance that every sponsor licence holder must observe.
Compliance with Immigration Rules and UK Law
One of the key responsibilities of a sponsor licence holder is to stay compliant with UK immigration laws. It is crucial to ensure that every sponsored worker maintains their immigration status and sticks to the conditions of their UK visa. For instance:
- Sponsors must ensure that foreign workers are qualified and accredited for their sponsored employment.
- They need to conduct right-to-work checks to confirm that every worker has the legal right to work in the UK.
- They must also comply with all UK employment laws, ensuring that the terms of employment, including pay and working conditions, adhere to UK standards.
If there are any issues – for instance, if a worker suddenly stops coming to work – sponsors must promptly report these to the Home Office using its Sponsorship Management System (SMS). Non-compliance or illegal working can lead to severe ramifications, including licence revocation, thus underlining the importance of these duties.
Sponsor Licence Reporting Duties
Consistent communication with the Home Office is another vital sponsorship duty. When certain situations arise with your sponsored workers, it’s not just good practice but a requirement to keep the Home Office in the loop through the SMS portal. If you come across any of the following scenarios, you will need to report within 10 working days:
- A no-show on day one: If your sponsored worker doesn’t make an appearance on their scheduled first day.
- Change of plans: If you had to end a sponsored worker’s contract sooner than expected.
- Unplanned breaks: If a sponsored employee misses 10 or more days of work without prior permission. It’s essential for sponsors to make these absences authorised – be it due to illness, vacations, or something else.
- Changes in a contract: Significant modifications in the terms of a sponsored worker’s contract, for instance, if the worker’s contract has been transferred to a different sponsor under TUPE regulations.
Documentation plays an important role in ensuring compliance with sponsorship duties. It’s essential for sponsors to ensure all relevant documents related to each sponsored worker are maintained. This includes the contract of employment, copies of the worker’s visa, passport, biometric residence permit, national insurance number, contact details and documentation that validates the worker’s skills and qualifications.
By maintaining these records, a sponsor can quickly address any inquiries or audits by the Home Office, thereby proving their commitment to compliance.
Appointing Key Personnel
As part of the sponsor duties, the UK-based employer will need to appoint key personnel to manage the sponsorship process and ensure that all duties are executed seamlessly. The roles include:
- Authorising Officer: This individual has the primary responsibility of ensuring that the sponsor complies with UK immigration laws. The authorising officer should have a significant authority within the UK business, ensuring that decisions related to sponsorship are aligned with the business’s core values.
- Key Contact: As the name suggests, key contacts are the main line of communication between the sponsor and the Home Office. They are responsible for receiving all official communications regarding the sponsorship licence.
- Level 1 User: Designated with the day-to-day management of the sponsorship via the online Sponsor Management System, this individual can assign the certificate of sponsorship to workers and report migrant activity.
It’s imperative that these roles are filled by trustworthy individuals, as they will be handling sensitive data and are integral to ensuring that the sponsor’s duties are met.
Reporting Organisational Changes
Changes in an organisation’s structure or operations can have consequences on the sponsorship licence. Thus, sponsors must be proactive in reporting these to the Home Office using SMS within a specific period of time. This includes:
- Changes in trading status, such as ceasing operations or insolvency.
- Substantial shifts in the business nature or size of the organisation.
- Mergers, acquisitions, or takeovers that could alter the company’s ownership or structure.
- Changes affecting the sponsor’s relationship with overseas businesses sending workers to the UK.
Being Ready for Home Office Visits
The Home Office have the authority to conduct both announced and unexpected site visits to verify compliance. Whether you’re waiting for a decision on your sponsor licence application or are already an established licence holder, these inspections can happen anytime. And mainly, if there’s a reasonable doubt or concern, they might decide to pay you a visit.
If the Home Office team decides to visit, you must provide them with access to all your sites and any location you oversee. You are also obliged to provide them with access to your HR records, personnel documentation, and any related files that need to be at their disposal.
The Home Office might want to cross-check the data you shared during your sponsor licence application. Always ensure that documents, especially those highlighted in Appendix D of the sponsor guidance, are not just available but also up-to-date and accurate.
These duties are the core responsibilities associated with holding a UK sponsorship licence. However, given the complexity of UK immigration rules, there might be additional duties based on specific scenarios. If you’re uncertain or have questions about your obligations as a sponsor, it’s advisable to consult with a business immigration lawyer for expert advice to ensure you’re on the right track.
What Happens When You Fail to Comply with Sponsor Duties?
The Home Office has robust systems in place to monitor the immigration status of sponsored workers. Failure to comply with sponsor duties may lead to various consequences, such as:
If a sponsor initially granted a skilled worker sponsor licence fails to maintain the requirement of the systems in place to ensure compliance, their licence will be demoted from an A-rating to a B-rating. This essentially restricts their capability to issue any new certificates of sponsorship to sponsor new skilled workers from outside the UK.
Continuous breaches or major violations can lead to the licence being suspended temporarily. During this period, sponsors cannot issue new certificates of sponsorship or extend existing ones while the authority investigates the issue further, affecting their operations significantly.
As outlined in Annex C1 of the Worker Sponsor Guidance, there are specific circumstances where the licence may be revoked. The Home Office may revoke your licence based on the severity of the breach. When a licence is revoked, the organisation is blocked from sponsoring any more individuals, and existing sponsored workers might have their visa applications or extensions refused, potentially having to leave the uk.
In some instances, especially those involving illegal employment or fraud or engaging in behaviour or actions that harm the public good, the Home Office may report the sponsor to the police. This can lead to potential criminal investigations, prosecutions, and, in some cases, significant fines or penalties.
Need Help with Your Sponsor Licence?
Acquiring and maintaining a sponsor licence can be complex and demanding. It’s crucial to ensure every detail is in place, every requirement is met, and every duty is performed accurately. At Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors, we understand the complexities and nuances of UK business immigration laws.
With our wealth of experience and dedicated approach, our skilled worker sponsor licence solicitors can guide you through each step, ensuring you remain compliant. Reach out to our expert team today and ensure your business remains on the right side of UK immigration rules.
The validity of a sponsorship license is four years. However, it is important to note that the licence may be revoked if the sponsor fails to fulfil their duties or if their circumstances change.
Not fulfilling your duties as a sponsor can have serious consequences. It may result in the suspension or revocation of your licence, financial penalties, and loss of the ability to sponsor workers in the future.
If your sponsorship licence is revoked, you will lose the right to sponsor and employ foreign workers. Your current sponsored employees may lose their right to work in the UK, potentially facing relocation or deportation. Furthermore, you might face restrictions on reapplying for a new licence for a certain period.
If you need to suspend your sponsorship licence temporarily, you should inform the Home Office promptly via the Sponsor Management System (SMS) portal, detailing the reasons for the suspension. It’s also advisable to consult an immigration expert to ensure compliance and understand any implications for your sponsored workers.
Yes, if your sponsor licence is revoked, you can file for an “Error Correction Request” or a “Judicial Review”. It is wise to seek legal guidance and act promptly to protect your interests on such occasions.
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At Gulbenkian Andonian, we pride ourselves on “Excellence, Experience and Efficiency”. With over 35 years of experience on your side, our team of London based lawyers and solicitors have a wealth of experience advising individuals, families and businesses of all sizes to find clarity on UK law.
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Dr Bernard Andonian – the Co-Founder of Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors, is an experienced Immigration Solicitor, former Judge, and recipient of a PhD in Law from the University of West London. He has over four decades of experience practising UK Immigration, Human Rights and Civil Litigation Law. He has served on the Law Society Immigration Law Panel, achieved numerous groundbreaking decisions in higher courts and is featured in the Legal 500’s Hall of Fame.