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Don’t Let Your UK Sponsor Licence Be Downgraded Or Revoked

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Staff at a Norfolk care home have been given 60 days to leave the country after their employer’s Sponsor Licence was revoked.

Nine people from the Philippines, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka have been told they must leave the UK despite some of them having worked at the care home in Docking, Norfolk, legally for years.

The Home Office has revoked the Docking House’s Sponsor Licence, which gave permission for the workers to be in the UK. Managers have complained that the Home Office has gave no thought to the welfare of the 40 vulnerable and elderly care home residence when making its decision to revoke the licence.

When questioned about the closure, a Home Office spokesman said, “Businesses that benefit from the Immigration system must ensure they have robust compliance systems in place or risk losing their privilege to sponsor international workers.

“We continually monitor all sponsors on the register and we will take action where we believe there is evidence that a sponsor is not fulfilling all of its duties.”

Sponsor Licence compliance requirements

Even the best Immigration solicitors will tell you that the compliance requirements for UK Sponsor Licences are tough on employers. If you plan to recruit talent from overseas, you need to do so with your eyes wide open to the responsibilities that hiring outside the EEA entails.

To recruit an employee from overseas, your business must be a licenced sponsor. To become a licensed sponsor, you must meet the following basic requirements:

  • You must be a genuine organisation (such as a corporation or a limited-liability partnership), or a sole trader
  • You must be operating legally in the United Kingdom
  • There must be no evidence that your organisation or key personnel could present a threat to UK Immigration control (for example, by having a history of Immigration violations)
  • You must nominate at least three staff members to fulfil the Immigration-related roles in your organisation: an Authorising Officer, a Key Contact and a Level 1 User
  • You must be able to meet your responsibilities as a sponsor, which is judged by ensuring that you have effective HR systems
  • You must supply the Home Office with all documents requested
  • You must meet any other requirements for the specific Immigration tier under which your prospective employee is working

Examples of other requirements include:

  • Key personnel within the organisation who are responsible for ensuring compliance with Sponsor Licence responsibilities must be given adequate training and have an understanding of why compliance is so important
  • There must be a mechanism in place for the sponsor to keep up with changes to the Sponsor Guidance and to report these changes appropriately to relevant personnel within the organisation
  • Record keeping and reporting systems can be appropriate to the type and size of the organisation but must be effective, e.g. a large organisation may utilise a sophisticated software system to record and carry out follow-up right up to work checks, whereas a smaller one may rely on spreadsheets and calendar reminders.

Consequences of non-compliance

When you are issued your Sponsor Licence, you will receive an A-rating. If you seriously breach your Sponsor Licence requirements, you can be downgraded to a B-rating or it could be suspended or revoked.

Broadly speaking, B-rating means that the Home Office believes your organisation is not fully able to comply with sponsorship duties but can demonstrate an ability to make improvements. B-rated sponsors are usually subject to an action plan to enable them to become fully compliant and progress to an A-rating.

If your licence is revoked, the effect will be immediate and any migrants you are endorsing will have their leave curtailed to 60 days. If international employees cannot find an alternative Immigration route they will have to leave the UK.

The Home Office will write to inform the sponsor that the licence has been revoked and there is no right of appeal, although a challenge could be brought through judicial review. The sponsor will not be able to apply again for a Sponsor Licence until the relevant 'cooling-off period' has passed from the date the licence is revoked

Criminal prosecution

Employers can also face criminal action if they are found guilty of employing someone who they knew or had ‘reasonable cause to believe’ didn’t have the right to work in the UK.

Therefore, if the Home Office finds that you have someone working for you who:

  • didn’t have leave (permission) to enter or remain in the UK, or;
  • their leave had expired, or;
  • they weren’t allowed to do certain types of work; or
  • their papers were incorrect or false

you could face five years’ imprisonment.

In summary

A downgrade or revocation of your Sponsor Licence can be devastating, not only on your ability to fulfil your commercial obligations and grow your business, but on any staff you are sponsoring who may lose their job and be forced to leave the country.

The best way to protect your organisation from a licence downgrade or revocation is to instruct an experienced Immigration lawyer to carry out a mock audit on your processes and procedures to ensure you are fully compliant with your Sponsor Licence obligations.

Visits from Home Office officials are often made unannounced, therefore it is imperative that you are confident that your HR framework is in place to comply with Home Office directed responsibilities.

OTS Solicitors is one of the most respected Immigration law firms in London. By making an appointment with one of our Immigration solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today. Our business immigration solicitors, Teni Shahiean, Oshin Shahiean, Nagesh Jain and Dr Lusine Navasardyan can assist you in obtaining a Sponsor Licence and meeting the compliance requirements.

If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this blog, please phone our London office on 0203 959 9123.

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