Sponsor Licence Holders and their Frequently Asked Questions on Employing Sponsored Workers and Certificate of Sponsorship Allocation banner


Sponsor Licence Holders and their Frequently Asked Questions on Employing Sponsored Workers and Certificate of Sponsorship Allocation

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As immigration solicitors specialising in business immigration law, we get asked a lot of questions about sponsor licences and sponsoring overseas workers on skilled worker visas and health and care worker visas. Whether your business is in the London hospitality sector, the construction industry or if your company operates 200-plus care homes it is inevitable that HR teams and key personnel will have questions about sponsor licence and sponsoring staff from overseas.

In this blog, our Sponsorship Licence lawyers answer some of your frequently asked questions on employing sponsored workers and certificate of sponsorship allocation.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For immigration advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

How long can an employer hire a worker for?

An employer can employ any worker on a fixed-term contract or non-fixed contract with the worker’s employment coming to an end by either the employer or employee giving notice in accordance with the employment contract. Alternatively, the employment could end due to redundancy or because the employee’s performance or conduct was unsatisfactory resulting in the employee’s dismissal.

All employers, whether they are sponsor licence holders or not, should regularly review their employment contracts and their suite of HR policies. For example, their grievance policy, dress code, maternity and paternity policy, and disciplinary policy. It is particularly important to do so if your business has recently applied for a sponsor licence to make sure that your current policies do not discriminate against or in favour of either sponsored or non-sponsored employees.

A sponsored worker on a skilled worker visa or health and care worker visa will only have limited leave to be in the UK. That means that even if their contract isn’t for a fixed term your business can't continue to employ them beyond the date in the certificate of sponsorship and their visa unless they:

  • Apply for a visa extension with your company continuing to sponsor them
  • Move to a non-sponsored visa route (such as the spouse visa) where they can work in the UK without needing a sponsoring employer
  • Settle in the UK by applying for indefinite leave to remain so they are no longer subject to immigration controls and have an unrestricted right to work in the UK

If a sponsored employee does not take up any of these options, your business can't continue to employ them beyond the end date on their certificate of sponsorship and work visa. If you do so then your business will be in breach of illegal working legislation and it could be fined up to £20,000 for each sponsored employee it continues to employ beyond the end date on their work visa. In addition, you risk having your sponsor licence suspended or revoked.

Suspension of a sponsor licence means your company would not be able to continue to recruit additional overseas workers on skilled worker visas or health and care worker visas. Revocation of the licence means all your sponsored staff would have their work visas curtailed and would have to leave your employment. The sponsored employees would also have to leave the UK unless they could find another job with a new sponsoring employer.

Sponsorship Licence lawyers say it’s essential that if any worker has time-limited leave to remain in the UK that you diary up a repeat right-to-work check. For example, you may employ staff who are not sponsored employees because they are in the UK on a graduate visa or a spouse visa but they only have limited leave to remain. In addition, if you employ international students on a student visa it is equally important to have HR systems in place to ensure that they are only working on a part-time basis in accordance with their student visa conditions. If you don’t have an effective right-to-work renewal check system in place then your company risks civil or criminal penalties under illegal working legislation as well as placing the sponsor licence at risk.

How many workers can an employer sponsor at a time?

The immigration rules do not say that there is a maximum number of sponsored employees that a sponsor can employ at any one time. That’s because the employment needs of any business will vary according to their size. For example, as Sponsorship Licence lawyers we assist care homes businesses with their number of homes ranging from one to several hundred.

The point our business immigration solicitors reiterate is that whatever the size of the business or level of company turnover the sponsor licence reporting and recording duties apply to your business rigidly whether your business is sponsoring one employee or thousands.

How many allocations can an employer request from the Home Office?

There are two types of certificates of sponsorship – defined and undefined. It is important to understand the difference between the two as the Home Office guidance warns that the Home Office will normally revoke a sponsor licence if a business incorrectly assigns a defined certificate of sponsorship for a job other than the one described in the application for that certificate of sponsorship or where a sponsoring employer issues an undefined certificate of sponsorship where a defined certificate is required.

Defined certificates are for skilled worker or health and care worker visa applicants applying for a visa from outside the UK. Undefined certificates are assigned to applicants applying for permission to stay from within the UK.

Defined certificates are not allocated on an annual basis – they are just requested on an individual basis each time your business recruits from overseas and the recruit requires sponsorship. Undefined certificates come from your annual allocation of certificates.

When first applying for a sponsor licence a business needs to specify the number of undefined certificates it wants allocated to it. You may be asked to justify the request if the Home Office thinks the number is large in comparison to the current size of your business. You may be able to justify the request by providing information on expansion and recruitment plans. If the allocation won't meet your planned recruitment from overseas then specialist Sponsorship Licence lawyers may be able to assist in making representations about the allocation.

The certificate of sponsorship allocation is placed on the sponsor management system account to be used in the 12-month allocation period. If you applied for a sponsor licence recently the 12 months runs from the date your licence was granted and, in subsequent years, 12 months from the date an allocation renewal request was granted by the Home Office. If you previously held a sponsor licence to sponsor Tier 2 (General) visa workers then your allocation year may be different.

Allocations in the 12-month period can go up or down. For example, the Home Office could decide to reduce the allocations if compliance action is taken against the business. Alternatively, the allocations can increase if you put in a request because you find that you need more undefined certificates in the 12-month period. The application is made via the sponsor management system account. It is referred to as a follow on allocation request.

Sponsorship Licence lawyers can advise on requesting additional allocation requests as it is almost impossible for a business to judge annual allocation needs as most businesses can't predict if their sponsored job applicants will be applying from within the UK or if they will have to recruit from overseas.

Some businesses will receive an automatic renewal allocation if they meet the Home Office criteria but a request can still be made for extra allocations. Applying for more allocations than your business needs doesn’t work as you can't carry over unused allocations into the next year. Also, in the following year, the Home Office will only allocate your business the allocations you used in the previous 12 months. This may not work for you if recruitment plans had to be delayed for several months. However, you can request more allocations than you used in the previous year if you can justify the request. The Home Office will then assess the request and consider factors such as your sponsor licence compliance record.

How OTS Solicitors can help your business

As specialist Sponsorship Licence lawyers, we handle many queries about certificate of sponsorship allocation as it is a tricky topic whether your business sponsors ten or a thousand work visa holders.

We also provide a sponsor licence management service for a fixed monthly retainer that is designed to ease the pressures on busy HR professionals and admin staff. We can also provide bespoke training for your company to ensure your key personnel are kept up to date with all the latest changes in sponsor licence reporting and recording duties.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For immigration advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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