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Sponsor Licences and Rules on Appointment of Key Personnel

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When a UK business is applying for a sponsor licence one of the questions you should ask your immigration solicitor is who you should appoint as key personnel to manage the sponsor licence. Get the decision wrong and your sponsor licence application may be delayed or even refused. That’s why Sponsorship Licence lawyers emphasise the importance of selecting key personnel with care.

UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For advice on sponsor licence applications and sponsor licence management call the expert London immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

Sponsor licence key personnel

When a business applies for a sponsor licence it needs to appoint key personnel. The job of key personnel is to manage the sponsor licence using the Home Office sponsorship management system (SMS). Some key personnel must be appointed before the sponsor licence application is submitted so the Home Office can check the key personnel as part of its sponsor licence application approval process. Additional key personnel can be appointed after the sponsor licence has been secured.

Key personnel roles

When your business applies for its sponsor licence you need to identify the people chosen to fill three key personnel roles:

  • Authorising officer – a senior employee or business owner with ultimate responsibility for the staff using SMS. The person appointed should be the person who is responsible for the recruitment of overseas  workers and ensuring that sponsor licence reporting and recording duties are met.
  • Key contact – the person who acts as the main point of contact with the Home Office.
  • Level 1 user – the person responsible for the day-to-day use of the SMS and management of the sponsor licence. Only one level 1 user can be named when applying for the sponsor licence but additional level 1 users can be appointed after the sponsor licence is granted.

Once the sponsor licence has been obtained your business can also appoint a level 2 user who carries out a similar role to the level 1 user but with less authority. For larger organisations more than one level 2 user can be appointed.

Multi-tasking and key personnel

Sponsorship Licence lawyers say many start-ups and SMEs question the affordability of employing all these key personnel to manage a sponsor licence, especially where they are only looking to recruit a limited number of overseas hires on skilled worker visas or only want to transfer one senior employee to the UK using the senior or specialist worker route as part of the new global business mobility visa. However, the immigration rules say that the key personnel roles can be filled by the same person or by different people.

Key personnel suitability checks

When your business applies for a sponsor licence, or applies to renew a sponsor licence, the names of the key personnel are checked by the Home Office. Many employers question the necessity of this as the checks can appear intrusive. However, they are required under the immigration rules because the Home Office relies on sponsor licence holders to comply with their reporting and recording duties under their sponsor licence and so wants to ensure that only appropriate people are appointed as key personnel as it is a position of trust.

When deciding who to put forward as the authorising officer, key contact or level 1 user, it is best to understand that a Home Office official will run a check to see if the person or people selected as key personnel has:

  • Been reported to the Home Office
  • Been fined by the Home Office in the last twelve months
  • Broken the law
  • Been convicted of a specified offence in Home Office guidance and the conviction is not spent
  • Not paid VAT or excise duty
  • Been a key personnel member at a business where the sponsor licence was revoked by the Home Office  in the last twelve months.

Key personnel requirements

In addition to the Home Office running background checks on identified key personnel you also need to ensure that the person or people appointed as key personnel are:

  • Based in the UK most of their time (although if your business is applying for a sponsor licence to sponsor an expansion worker, under the global business mobility visa, the authorising officer can be based overseas if there is no one appropriate to appoint in the UK as the expansion worker will be the one setting up the UK branch of the overseas based parent company).
  • A business owner or office holder or employee of the company. Some key personnel can't be an agency worker or contractor or consultant contracted for a specific purpose. The rules say at least one level 1 user must be an employee of the sponsor licence holder but additional level 1 or level 2 users can be appointed when employed by a third-party in circumstances where the third party provides the sponsor licence holder with HR services. Temporary agency staff can be appointed as a level 2 user.
  • Not subject to a bankruptcy restriction order or undertaking or to a debt relief restriction order or an undertaking and nor do they have a history of non-compliance with sponsorship licence requirements.

Sponsorship Licence lawyers as key personnel

Many sponsor licence applicants want to appoint their Sponsorship Licence lawyers as key personnel because they want to instruct them to professionally manage the sponsor licence. The Home Office rules say a sponsor licence holder can allocate all the key personnel roles to a Sponsorship Licence lawyer save for the authorising officer role. The other criteria for a Sponsorship Licence lawyer to act as key personnel is that the solicitor must be qualified to give immigration advice.

UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For help with your sponsor licence application or its management call the Sponsorship Licence lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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