Obtaining a Sponsor Licence
To a migrant employee it must feel as if an employer company holding a Sponsor Licence has enormous power over them and their future in the UK. As a result, the UK Visas and Immigration has strict and rather complicated regulations in place about the eligibility criteria to secure a Sponsor Licence and the application process. Furthermore, Sponsor Licences can be withdrawn or downgraded by UK Visas and Immigration.
Given the economic necessity of employing a migrant workforce for the success of many businesses, it is the view of top London immigration solicitors that it really pays to get expert legal help and advice on the Sponsor Licence application process and criteria and also ongoing compliance with the Sponsor Licence rules and regulations.
Who needs a Sponsor Licence?
If an employer company wants to employ nationals from outside the European Economic area or Switzerland, then they need a Sponsor Licence from the Home Office. The Sponsor Licence authorises the company to recruit non EEA nationals provided that the employer company complies with the conditions and responsibilities imposed under the Sponsor Licence scheme.
top London immigration solicitors emphasise the importance of knowing, understanding and complying with the UK Visas and Immigration regulations on Sponsor Licences because failure to do so could result in the Sponsor Licence being:
• Suspended; or
• Withdrawn; or
• A reduction in user rating.
The loss of a Sponsor Licence can have a devastating impact on a company if they are heavily reliant on recruiting employees from overseas and can mean the difference between profitability and loss. In human terms, the loss or withdrawal of a Sponsor Licence can also have a serious impact on the existing migrant workforce. As a result, the best London immigration solicitors recommend that employers and their human resources teams take specialist legal advice on their Sponsor Licence if they have any questions about their duties and responsibilities under the Sponsor Licence.
What does a Sponsor Licence cover?
• Tier 2 - skilled workers with long-term job offers; and/or
• Tier 5 - skilled temporary workers.
Tier 2 visas
• General - the job that the prospective recruit is being employed for must meet UK Visas and Immigration job suitability criteria; or
• Intra-Company Transfer - for multinational companies who want to transfer employees to the UK.
Suitability criteria for a Sponsor Licence
• No unspent convictions for Immigration offences or other specified crimes, such as money laundering; and
• No prior history of failure to carry out Sponsor Licence duties ; and
• Not been employed as a key person managing the Sponsor Licence of a company that has had its licence revoked within the last 12 months; and
• Not failed to pay VAT or excise duty; and
• Be based in the UK with the key staff being office holders of the company or permanent employed staff as opposed to locums or contractors or consultants; and
• The key staff must not be subject to a bankruptcy order; and
• The company must meet the genuineness test, namely that they have real job vacancies for skilled workers and undergo a visit from a UK Visas and Immigration compliance officer.
Sponsor Licence key staff requirements
It is not enough for an employer to promise that they will comply with the Sponsor Licence conditions. In order to obtain the Sponsor Licence, the employer has to show that they have the people resources within the business to manage the Sponsor Licence and the paperwork generated by the Employment of Tier 2 visa workers. UK Visas and Immigration requires:
• An authorising officer who is responsible for the staff who utilise the sponsorship management system; and
• A key contact who is the point of contact between the employer and the UK visas and Immigration; and
• A level 1 user or an employee of the company who is tasked with the day to day administration and management of the paperwork relating to the Sponsor Licence.
UK Visas and Immigration recognise that some of the key staff requirements can be onerous for small companies or those without dedicated human resources departments. According the key staff roles can be delegated to a UK based solicitor who is qualified to give Immigration advice. However, the Immigration solicitor cannot hold the authorising officer role.
What are the duties of an employer under a Sponsor Licence?
An employer company needs to fulfil the following responsibilities under the Sponsor License:
• Check that overseas employees have the necessary skills and qualifications to do the job they have been employed to do and to retain copies of the paperwork evidencing their qualifications; and
• Monitor employees with a certificate of sponsorship to check their Immigration status and continued right to work information. This responsibility includes maintaining a paper trail of right to work documents as well as a copy of the employee’s passport;
• Track and record attendance of workers with a certificate of sponsorship;
• Maintain and update the contact details of migrant workers and report issues to the UK Visas and Immigration, for example, an employee not coming to work;
• If there are significant changes in the company business circumstances, then they have to be reported to UKVI, for example:
• If the company engages in a merger or take-over, stops trading or becomes insolvent; or
• The company substantially changes the nature of the business; or
• If the company changes the address of the business or the identity of the key staff monitoring the Sponsor Licence under the sponsor management system.
The company must report any significant changes in circumstances within 20 working days.
Sponsor Licence ratings
If a company secures a UK Visas and Immigration Sponsor Licence, it will automatically be allocated an A rating. The A rating enables the company to offer certificates of sponsorship to migrant employees.
If the company does not comply with Sponsor Licence requirements the rating can be downgraded and the company will then not be able to issue certificate of sponsorships, thus preventing it from employing additional non EEA workers although the business will still be able to provide certificates to employees who are extending their visas.
There can be substantial financial and time costs involved in obtaining a Sponsor Licence so, in the opinion of top London immigration solicitors, it is vital that expert advice is obtained if a company has any concerns about the application for or operation of the Sponsor Licence or their duties.
OTS Solicitors regularly advise on all aspects of business immigration and have substantial expertise in securing Sponsor Licences for employer companies and advising on the management of Sponsor Licences as well as advising in situations where companies face potential downgrading from A rating to B rating or other Sponsor Licence difficulties. OTS Solicitors’ expert advice on business immigration is recognised by the legal directory of leading UK lawyers, Legal 500. The firm is ranked for business immigration services. In addition, OTS Solicitors have Law Society accredited solicitors’ status as trusted specialists in Immigration law.
For more information on Sponsor Licences or other aspect of business immigration law, please call us on 0203 959 9123 to arrange an appointment to speak to one of our experienced London immigration solicitors who will be happy to help.