Immigration Compliance and Risk Management: Sponsor Licence Record Keeping
The paperwork involved with a Home Office issued sponsor licence to enable your business to sponsor skilled migrant workers on skilled worker visas doesn’t end when your first Sponsor Licence is granted. Your company needs to know all about immigration compliance and risk management so your business can maintain its Sponsor Licence A rating and your company can offer sponsored Employment to skilled overseas workers. In this article we look at the topic of Sponsor Licence record keeping.
If you have questions about your business sponsoring employees under a Home Office issued sponsor licence or queries about the new skilled worker visa the specialist immigration team at London based OTS Solicitors can help your business. Call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online. Appointments can be arranged via video call, skype or telephone.
Home Office guidance on Sponsor Licence record keeping
When advising on how best to manage your Sponsor Licence, UK immigration solicitors refer back to the Home Office guidance entitled ‘ Appendix D guidance for sponsors on keeping documents’. It pays to keep up to date with this guidance as although the document was first published as long ago as October 2013, it was last updated on the 16 March 2021. Unless you are following the latest issued Home Office guidance your company could be jeopardising its Immigration compliance record and failing in its risk management.
Appendix D guidance for sponsors on keeping documents
The Appendix D guidance is relevant for those with sponsor licences sponsoring:
- Skilled worker visa holders
- Tier 2 (General) visa holders
- Intra company transfer visa holders
- Temporary workers
Appendix D highlights the documents required and record keeping needed to keep you ‘Immigration compliant’. Use of a specialist sponsor licence management service or an extremely careful study of this Appendix will help you with your risk management.
What happens if a sponsoring employer doesn’t keep Sponsor Licence records?
- Your current Sponsor Licence being downgraded or suspended.
- Your current sponsor licence being revoked.
- Your company being unsuccessful when applying for the renewal of its Sponsor Licence as the Sponsor Licence grant is only for four years. The Sponsor Licence then has to be renewed if your business wants to continue to sponsor skilled worker visa holders.
On a practical note, failure to comply with Sponsor Licence record keeping duties could result in:
- Your company not being able to recruit additional skilled worker visa holders so the business is restricted to only employing British citizens or settled workers.
- Your business having to let go its existing skilled worker visa holders and Tier 2 (General) visa holders who are sponsored employees. Those skilled migrant workers will then only have around sixty days to find a new sponsoring employer or secure a visa under a new category or leave the UK. Not only is this highly disruptive for the individuals concerned, it could also have a massive impact on your business and its ability to fill existing contracts and orders and meet contractual deadlines. It could also create reputational damage.
Keeping documents as part of Sponsor Licence management requirements
The Home Office guidance isn’t prescriptive when it comes to how records should be kept. Either paper or electronic records are acceptable. However, immigration solicitors warn that however your business elects to maintain its records they must be easily and readily accessible. That’s because a Home Office official may pay an unannounced sponsor licence audit or compliance visitand ask to see the records. That’s why it is important that any HR systems or Sponsor Licence record keeping systems that you devise are simple and accessible, even if your Sponsor Licence Level 1 user or Level 2 users are absent from the office on holiday or sick leave.
Retaining Sponsor Licence records
If you keep your records in paper format your business will be keen to know how long you need to retain records for as whether you are storing the paperwork at your office premises or at an external storage company location, storage costs are an expense that you will want to minimise.
The Home Office guidance says that, unless otherwise stated in the guidance, the general rule is that all documents relating to an individual sponsored skilled migrant worker or student must be kept during the period of sponsorship until whichever is the earlier of:
- One year has passed from the date of the end of sponsorship or
- The date on which a Home Office compliance officer has examined and approved the records (if this is less than one year after you ended the sponsorship of the individual).
In addition to the documents relating to individual sponsored visa holders, your business also needs to retain the documents provided in support of its Sponsor Licence application. That paperwork needs to be kept for the duration of the Sponsor Licence, namely four years unless the Sponsor Licence is revoked or relinquished.
Whilst these are the Appendix D rules on Sponsor Licence record keeping there may be other reasons to keep paperwork for longer, for example, as evidence of compliance with illegal working legislation or because of threats of litigation and pending claims.
The Sponsor Licence record keeping duties contained in Appendix D don’t affect your company’s responsibilities under data protection legislation, unless there is an exemption.
Documents required for Sponsor Licence record keeping
For each sponsored worker you should keep:
- A copy of their current passport with pages copied to identify the skilled worker and any relevant entry clearances, stamps or visas showing the worker’s personal identity details and any relevant entry clearances (there is an exception to the record keeping requirement to take a copy of the worker’s passport if the worker is employed for one day or less and it isn’t practicable to obtain a copy of the passport).
- Where relevant and in specified circumstances, evidence of date of entry to the UK to check entry to the UK occurred during the validity period of their visa.
- A copy of their biometric residence permit (BRP).
- A copy of their National Insurance (NI) number (unless the worker is exempt from needing a NI number).
- Their contact details including home address, email address and phone numbers.
- Where relevant, a copy of their Disclosure and Barring Service check.
- A record of the absences from work.
- Where the worker is a Croatian national and subject to worker authorisation, a copy of their Purple Registration Certificate establishing an entitlement to work for your business as their sponsor.
- If the worker is aged under eighteen, a copy of a letter from their parents or legal guardian (one parent’s consent is sufficient if that parent has sole legal responsibility for the child) consenting to the arrangements that have been made for travel, reception and care arrangements in the UK.
- Any other specific documents needed, for example, there are additional rules for workers on international agreement visas.
In addition to the documents required to be kept for each sponsored employee, the company also needs to retain evidence of recruitment activity for sponsored workers. If the skilled worker is in the UK on a Tier 2 (General) visa your business will need to keep the resident labour market test (RLMT) that your company was required to undertake. If the employee is sponsored on a skilled worker visa the business won't have needed to carry out a RLMT but you will need to keep evidence of how the company recruited the worker. That means if the Home Office conduct a sponsor licence audit ,the Home Office caseworker can assess if the job vacancy was a genuine one or not. The evidence required includes:
- A copy of each job advertisement placed for the position. The advert must include the job title, location of the job, the main duties and job responsibilities, the skills, qualifications and experience needed to carry out the job, the salary package or salary range and the closing date for applications.
- If the job was advertised on the internet (including placement on your company website vacancy section) a screen shot from the website with the advert on the day the vacancy was first advertised showing the name of the website, the contents of the advert, the URL website address, the date the vacancy was first advertised and the closing date for applications.
- All persons called for final job interview to include application form and other details and interview notes for settled workers who weren’t recruited.
- Evidence of rates of pay to show that the business is paying the skilled migrant worker the minimum salary threshold, depending on the worker’s circumstances. For example, if the overseas worker qualifies as a new entrant or the going rate for the specified job role. Evidence required includes worker’s payslips (showing the worker’s name, NI number, tax code, allowances and deductions), frequency of salary payments made to the sponsored employee, the contract of Employment or the written statement of Employment particulars
- Evidence of the skilled migrant worker’s skills that make them eligible for the skilled worker visa together with a copy of the job description specifying the skills, experience and qualifications required for the job that they have filled.
Sponsor Licence record keeping and Immigration compliance should not deter your business from applying for its first Sponsor Licence but it is best to either budget for the Employment of a sponsor licence management service or to secure the detailed legal advice that your business will need to meet its Sponsor Licence record keeping duties.
OTS Solicitors are specialists in immigration law and can help your business with its sponsor licence application and sponsor licence compliance through offering a full sponsor licence management service. Our expert immigration solicitors offer the best focussed advice on your Sponsor Licence and Immigration compliance. Call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form. Appointments are available through video conference, Skype or by telephone appointment.