Appealing the Revocation of a Home Office Sponsor Licence
According to the Home Office register of sponsors, in May 2021 there were just under 35,000 UK businesses with Home Office issued sponsor licences enabling the companies to sponsor employees on work visas or temporary work visas. The register lists the organisation, the type of licence held and the sponsor licence rating of each business. According to immigration solicitors it is frighteningly easy to go from sponsor licence A rating to sponsor licence suspension or revocation. In this article business immigration solicitor, Hans Sok Appadu , looks at what your business can do if your company is at risk of sponsor licence revocation or if your company has had their sponsor licence revoked.
UK London Based and Online Immigration Solicitors
What is sponsor licence revocation?
If your company has their sponsor licence revoked it means your business no longer has Home Office permission to sponsor workers on Tier 2 (General) visas or skilled worker visas or temporary visas.
If a sponsor licence is revoked then it effectively means the sponsor licence is cancelled. That means that your company details will be removed from the Home Office sponsor licence register.
Can you appeal against a sponsor licence revocation?
Under the immigration rules there is no right of appeal against the decision to revoke a sponsor licence. Although a company can't appeal the decision there are steps the business can take when first notified of the suspension of the sponsor licence or the potential for the sponsor licence to be revoked.
Immigration solicitors say that as there is no right of appeal against a decision to revoke a sponsor licence it is crucial to take action as soon as the company realises that their sponsor licence is at risk.
Who decides if a sponsor licence should be revoked?
A Home Office official will determine if your company sponsor licence should be revoked. To many business owners that seems unfair as the Home Office acts as ‘judge and jury’ with no independent oversight on sponsor licence revocation decisions. However, in a limited number of situations it may be possible to threaten or start judicial review proceedings so there is an independent element to the revocation decision. Judicial review proceedings should be seen as a weapon of the last resort as it is best to act when first notified that a sponsor licence is at risk of revocation.
What happens if an employer continues to employ work visa holders after sponsor licence revocation?
The revocation of a sponsor licence means a UK business has lost its authority to employ sponsored workers who are in the UK on a work visa and subject to immigration controls.
Any workers who are sponsored by the business will have their work visas curtailed or cut short, normally to sixty days.
Visa curtailment means any sponsored workers have to leave their employment as your business can no longer sponsor their job. If the skilled migrant workers can't find alternate employment with a UK employer who holds a sponsor licence, and can allocate them a certificate of sponsorship, then the skilled migrant worker will have to leave the UK.
If a business that has had a sponsor licence revoked but continues to employ workers on work visas who are subject to immigration controls, then the business will be in breach of illegal working legislation and could face civil or criminal penalties. That is because the company will be knowingly employing someone who does not have a right to work in the UK because of the worker’s work visa curtailment and the company can't continue to sponsor the worker as a result of their sponsor licence revocation.
Appealing sponsor licence revocation
Although there isn’t a formal appeal process once the revocation of a sponsor licence has taken place there is action that a company can take to try to stop their sponsor licence being revoked.
The key to stopping your company sponsor licence being revoked is to take action as soon you receive the letter from the Home Office notifying you that consideration is being given to downgrading, suspending or revoking the company sponsor licence.
The letter must not sit in someone’s in-tray as your company only has twenty days to respond. That may seem like a fairly generous amount of time but, in reality, it isn’t as you will need most of those twenty days to:
- Consider what is said in the Home Office letter.
- Review the initial Home Office investigation and allegations and assess whether you accept some or all of the allegations.
- Audit your company HR files and procedures. An external audit by a business immigration solicitor can ensure that the audit is impartial and speedy as specialist sponsor licence solicitors know the standards the Home Office requires and what falls short of acceptable practices in terms of HR file management and procedure. Any external audit carried out by an immigration solicitor isn’t a criticism of your company or your HR practices but is just an assessment of how your files and procedures tally with the Home Office investigations and their findings. Many HR files are exemplary but they just don’t always comply with the exacting sponsor licence reporting and recording duties.
- Take expert sponsor licence legal advice on how best to respond to the Home Office letter – often if standards have fallen below the required reporting and recording duties required of a sponsor licence holder it is best to own up to that rather than challenge the indefensible.
- Work out how any valid Home Office criticisms can be addressed. Working with a business immigration solicitor who provides sponsor licence management services can be helpful as the solicitor can advise on best practice procedures if the company wants to keep sponsor licence management inhouse. The internal audit should also help the company understand the extent of any issues flagged up by the Home Office in their notification letter.
- Prepare any mitigation. Not ‘the dog ate my homework’ letter but a carefully crafted reply to the Home Office that explains how normal high standards slipped but have been reinstated and the measures that are being taken to ensure effective internal monitoring of compliance with sponsor licence reporting and recording duties.
- Gather the evidence. It may be beneficial to respond to the Home Office notification letter with your response and your supporting documents. It’s best to select evidence with care rather than attempting ‘shock and awe’ tactics of sending volume documentation.
- Submit the response to the Home Office. The likelihood is that your business will hear back from the Home Office within twenty days.
How OTS Solicitors Immigration Lawyers can help your business
- Responding to Home Office notification letters to challenge the revocation, suspension or downgrading of your company sponsor licence.
- Internal sponsor licence audits.
- Sponsor licence management services to avoid sponsor licence reporting and recording issues in future.
- Bespoke sponsor licence training for key personnel so they fully understand the complexities of sponsor licence reporting and recording.
- Advising on judicial review options.
- Fresh sponsor licence applications after revocation of sponsor licence and completion of the cooling-off period.
- Sponsor licence renewal applications.
UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors
For specialist advice on avoiding sponsor licence suspension or dealing with the suspension of your sponsor licence call the immigration law team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online. Appointments are available by phone or video call.