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Understanding Your Sponsor Licence Duties

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A Guide to Sponsor Licence Compliance

If your business is going to apply for a sponsor licence it is essential that you understand your sponsor licence obligations. You need to have the right systems in place to manage your reporting and recording duties or employ the services of Sponsorship Licence lawyers to manage your sponsor licence for you.

In this guide, our immigration solicitors look at what sponsor licence duties are and how best to comply with them.

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

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

Sponsor licences

A sponsor licence allows your business to recruit workers from overseas who are subject to UK immigration control and who are choosing to come to the UK through a sponsored work visa.

Sponsored employment means the overseas workers’ right to live and work in the UK is contingent on them remaining in sponsored employment and your business retaining its sponsor licence. To fill your side of the bargain your company must comply with its sponsor licence duties. Some companies and many business immigration solicitors think that is a small price to pay for access to global talent.

Complying with sponsor licence duties is not just about meeting your obligations as a sponsor licence holder and avoiding your sponsor licence being suspended or revoked. It also involves compliance with illegal working legislation and the proper conduct of right-to-work checks to avoid your company facing civil or criminal penalties for non-compliance with the requirement to conduct right-to-work checks on all employees, whatever their nationality or immigration status.

Sponsor licence management

The resources required for sponsor licence management depend on the number of sponsored employees you intend to recruit. For companies who don’t have large HR departments or HR personnel to manage a sponsor licence then using a professional sponsor licence management service with a monthly retainer can be an option.

By professionally managing your sponsor licence duties you may be able to reduce your sponsor licence admin costs. You are also less likely to end up with big bills for immigration legal advice on sponsor licence downgrading, suspension or revocation. That’s because management services can normally pre-empt major problems occurring, such as the Home Office imposing an action plan or suspending the licence so you can't recruit any additional sponsored workers until your A grading is reinstated.

Sponsor licence duties

Once you have obtained a sponsor licence your duties include reporting and recording using the Home Office online sponsor management system.

As a sponsoring employer, you are the eyes and ears of the Home Office, something that can be a bit uncomfortable for some sponsoring employers. However, Sponsorship Licence lawyers  say that non-compliance with reporting and recording duties puts the ongoing employment of all your sponsored workers at risk because if your sponsor licence is revoked you won't be able to continue to employ them. The sponsored workers will either need to find a new job with another sponsoring employer or leave the UK. Either option could be highly disruptive to a sponsored employee and their family and equally damaging to your business.

Sponsor licence holders have the following key duties:

  • Only recruit overseas workers with the necessary skills and expertise for the work visa they are applying for and to offer jobs that meet the relevant visa’s minimum salary threshold. This is achieved through the proper allocation of certificates of sponsorship
  • Monitor sponsored workers and comply with reporting duties, such as absences from employment or change of address. As well as reporting by using the sponsor management system you need to ensure that you meet the Home Office deadlines for reporting changes. That’s why it is important that you have key personnel in place who have the time to comply with their reporting and recording duties
  • Carry out checks such as the right-to-work check before commencement of employment and repeat checks for sponsored staff with limited leave to remain and time-limited right to work in the UK
  • Comply with business-related licence duties, such as notifying if there is a change in business address or if you need to change the key personnel. For example, if your authorising officer or level one user leaves the company

In addition to complying with specific sponsor licence duties sponsor licence holders are also under 3 general duties:

  • To adhere to UK immigration rules and the guidance issued for the work visas relevant to their sponsorship
  • To comply with UK law, such as but not limited to, complying with illegal working and modern slavery legislation
  • Act in the public good so your business operates in a way that is compatible with core values and does not harm the greater benefit of society by refraining from behaviour or actions that are not beneficial to society

Sponsor licence record keeping

Appendix D of the immigration rules sets out what records a sponsor licence holder must keep and how long for. Sponsorship Licence lawyers say that because the Home Office can conduct either pre-planned or unannounced compliance visits it is best to have the records handy. The records can be kept digitally or manually but the key point is that the documents should always be accessible so your business is not reliant on your level one user being in the office to find the records on the day of an unannounced audit.

Documents that need to be kept include:

  • The sponsored worker’s passport – the relevant pages such as identity details, leave stamp, immigration status and the leave to remain period
  • The worker’s national insurance number and biometric residence permit
  • Contact details for the sponsored worker - current and historical
  • The disclosure barring service check for the sponsored employee (where relevant)
  • Absence record detailing the worker’s relevant reportable absences
  • The contract of employment and pay (including allowances) and evidence that the worker met the skill and other visa eligibility criteria at the time of their work visa application. For example, a copy of their CV or copies of qualification certificates

Records should be retained by the business until either a Home Office official has looked at them, or for at least a year after inspection. If a sponsored employee is with the company for less than 1 year then the rules say the records should be kept for the duration of the worker’s employment with the company. Other records may need to be kept for longer, such as evidence of right-to-work checks.

Sponsor licence reporting duties

In addition to keeping the right documents key personnel must also report certain individual worker and company-related activities within 10 (or sometimes 20) working days on the sponsor management system. Reporting duties include:

  • Work absence – if the sponsored employee does not arrive at work on their first day of the job, they leave their job before the end of the contract, or they are away from work without authorisation for 10 or more days
  • Work changes such as a change in pay or office location. A recent change in immigration rules means that if a sponsored employee is a hybrid worker the business must report on permanent changes to work routines, such as a move to full-time working from home or a new office or client site
  • Business changes such as a new business name, change in company address, a takeover or sale of the business or the company ceasing trading

Questions on sponsor licence duties

If your key personnel have questions on their sponsor licence duties then that is understandable as the rules can be complicated and guidance changes. Sponsorship Licence lawyers can help answer those questions or provide your business with a professional sponsor licence management service for a fixed monthly retainer.

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

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

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