What Is a Sponsor Licence Rating?

What Is a Sponsor Licence Rating?

When a company applies for a sponsor licence to bring skilled workers from outside the UK, the Home Office assigns a rating based on their compliance with sponsor duties. This rating reflects the company’s adherence to UK immigration laws and determines its capacity to issue certificates of sponsorship.

Understanding sponsor licence ratings and their implications is essential for UK employers to maintain their ability to attract and retain global talent. This blog post will explore the details of sponsor licence ratings, their significance, and how to manage and improve these ratings effectively.

Understanding Sponsor Licence Rating

When a sponsor licence is issued, the Home Office assigns a rating to the sponsoring company. This rating indicates the company’s ability to meet sponsorship duties and comply with UK immigration laws. The initial rating assigned can significantly influence a company’s operations, especially in hiring and managing migrant workers.

The two primary ratings are A-rating and B-rating. An A-rated licence demonstrates that the company meets all compliance requirements and can issue certificates of sponsorship to new and existing employees.

In contrast, a B rating indicates that the company has failed to comply with certain sponsorship duties, which will affect its ability to sponsor new workers until the rating improves. Understanding these ratings and their implications is crucial for sponsor licence holders to effectively maintain their ability to attract and retain global talent. Let’s explore more about the A-rated and B-rated sponsor licences. 

Related article: What Are the Eligibility Requirements for a Sponsor Licence?

A-rated Sponsor Licence

An A-rated sponsor licence is ideal for any UK employer holding a sponsor licence. This rating indicates full compliance with UKVI requirements. With an A-rated licence, a company can sponsor skilled worker visas, ensuring a smooth process for bringing international talent into the UK.

Companies must have robust systems to handle their sponsorship duties effectively to maintain this rating. They must show no recent significant breaches of immigration rules or unspent criminal convictions.

Achieving and sustaining an A-rating requires careful adherence to all compliance obligations laid out by UKVI. These include accurately and timely reporting changes to sponsored positions, ensuring that only eligible employees are offered sponsorship, and cooperating fully with any UKVI audits. 

Companies with an A-rated licence can issue Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to new and existing international employees, facilitating their applications for the necessary UK work visas. This is crucial for businesses that rely on global talent to fill skilled roles.

B-rated Sponsor Licence

A B-rated sponsor licence is issued to businesses that fail to meet the full compliance standards required by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). This rating indicates that a company has deficiencies in its sponsorship management processes and must make immediate improvements to regain full compliance status.

Typically, a B-rating is assigned following an assessment by UKVI, which may trigger onsite inspections, digital compliance checks, or information from other government bodies.

Receiving a B-rating requires a company to follow a strict action plan drafted by the Home Office. This plan outlines the company’s steps to rectify its compliance issues. While the business may continue to sponsor existing employees during this period, it is not permitted to issue new Certificates of Sponsorship until it has successfully upgraded back to an A-rating.

Additionally, the business is subject to a time-limited compliance period and must pay a fee to implement the necessary corrective measures.

Failure to adhere to the action plan within the allotted time can lead to more severe consequences, including the revocation of the sponsor licence. Losing a sponsor licence can cause significant disruption to a business, particularly if it depends heavily on skilled international workers.

Check out: How Much Does Sponsor License Cost

What Can Lead to a B Rating?

A licence downgraded to a B-rating by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) is a warning that a business has not fully met the expectations for managing sponsored workers. There are several reasons why a sponsor licence may be downgraded from an A to a B rating, including:

Inadequate Human Resources Systems

A key factor influencing a downgrade is the effectiveness of a company’s human resources (HR) systems. UKVI mandates that sponsors maintain robust HR systems capable of monitoring the attendance and immigration status of their sponsored workers.

For example, if a business fails to track and address the absences of a sponsored employee or fails to notice when an employee’s visa is about to expire, this could result in a downgrade. Proper HR systems are essential for ensuring that all aspects of sponsorship are managed according to the regulatory requirements.

Convictions and Civil Penalties

The integrity of a sponsoring business and its key personnel also plays a crucial role in maintaining an A-rated licence.

If a business or its key personnel have unspent criminal convictions or received civil penalties for relevant offences, this can significantly impact the sponsor’s rating. Such penalties indicate a failure to meet the legal and ethical standards expected by UKVI.

Worker Compliance

Another critical aspect is the compliance of all workers, sponsored or otherwise, with the conditions of their visas. For example, a sponsor permitting a student visa holder to work more hours than their visa allows is a non-compliance that could lead to a downgrade. 

Ensuring that all employees adhere to their visa restrictions is a fundamental responsibility of the sponsor.

Failure to Provide Requested Information

Lastly, the willingness and ability of a sponsor to cooperate with UKVI can affect their licence rating. If UKVI requests specific information as part of their compliance checks and the sponsor fails to provide it or does not fully cooperate, this could lead to a downgrade.

Effective communication and transparency with UKVI are crucial for maintaining a good sponsor licence rating.

Employment Standards

UKVI requires that jobs offered to sponsored workers meet certain standards, including ensuring that positions are genuine, meet the appropriate skill level, and offer a salary meeting the minimum visa category threshold.

If a sponsor fails to meet these employment standards, such as by offering a job that does not genuinely exist or underpaying a worker, it can trigger a downgrade to a B rating.

What Are the Consequences of a B-rated Sponsor Licence?

A B-rated sponsor licence can have serious implications for businesses, impacting their capacity to sponsor foreign workers and adhere to immigration laws. 

When a business receives a B-rating, it is prohibited from assigning certificates of sponsorship until it regains its A-rating. This hampers the company’s ability to bring in new international talent, stunting growth and reducing operational capacity. 

Moreover, a B-rated status often triggers increased scrutiny from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and the Home Office, leading to more frequent and comprehensive compliance checks. This can impose additional administrative burdens on the business, disrupting day-to-day operations and requiring extra resources to ensure compliance.

Furthermore, failing to adhere to the requirements set out in the action plan to address the deficiencies that led to the B-rating can result in the revocation of the sponsor licence. Loss of the licence means the company cannot sponsor any workers, leading to the loss of critical personnel and significant operational disruptions.

Such a scenario can also have lasting repercussions, making it challenging for the business to reapply for and obtain a sponsor licence.

Overall, the effects of a B-rated sponsor licence extend beyond simple compliance issues, affecting a company’s operational capabilities, growth potential, and market competitiveness. Businesses must address issues promptly and effectively to avoid these disruptions and maintain their ability to sponsor and retain international talent.

Tips to Regain A Rating

Here are some tips you can utilise to regain the A rating:

After a downgrade to a B-rating, UKVI will issue an action plan detailing the deficiencies that need correction. It is critical to act quickly and pay the fees for this within 10 days of receiving this plan. The action plan will include requirements you need to fulfil to regain the A-rating.

 You will generally have three months from the issuance of the action plan to make the necessary changes. After this period, UKVI will conduct a follow-up compliance visit to assess whether the issues have been satisfactorily resolved.

It’s important to recognise that failure to complete the action plan adequately may lead to further downgrades or even revocation of your licence. UKVI might issue a second B-rating, providing another chance to rectify issues, but this should not be relied upon as a safety net. Remember, you are allowed a maximum of two B-ratings within the four years of your licence.

Given the complexities involved in meeting UKVI’s standards, consulting with UK business immigration law specialists is advisable. They can provide guidance on making the necessary changes and ensure that these modifications meet the criteria before the next compliance visit.

This professional support can significantly enhance your chances of regaining an A-rating, offering peace of mind and strategic advice during compliance.

Let Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors Help You

 Facing challenges with your sponsor licence rating? Our experienced team is dedicated to helping you achieve and maintain your A-rating, ensuring full compliance with UK immigration laws. 

Reach out today for expert advice and tailored support

FAQs

A Sponsor Licence Rating can be downgraded from an A-rating to a B-rating or even have the licence revoked if the company fails to comply with the sponsor licence duties or if there are any issues with the sponsorship management system.

If your sponsor licence is revoked, you lose the ability to sponsor new and existing international employees. This action is often triggered by serious non-compliance with UK immigration laws or failure to meet the requirements of an issued action plan. 

You can find your sponsor licence rating on the Sponsor Management System (SMS), which UK Visas and Immigration issues. The system records all details regarding your sponsorship licence, including your current rating.

To ensure compliance with your sponsor duties, regularly audit your processes using the Sponsorship Management System. Stay updated with all immigration laws and UKVI guidelines, and rigorously implement the changes required in any action plans you receive.

With a provisional rating, your ability to sponsor new employees is limited to one. This rating typically occurs when you are newly granted a licence or if UKVI needs to reassess your compliance after a significant issue.

Ask our Expert Legal Team

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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