What is a Sponsor Licence Cooling Off Period? banner


What is a Sponsor Licence Cooling Off Period?

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If your sponsor licence application is refused, or your sponsor licence is revoked by the Home Office, your business may be subject to a cooling off period. In this article our immigration solicitors take a look at what this means for your company and for your sponsored overseas workers and how we can help you.

 UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

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

In this article we look at:

The sponsor licence cooling off period

The sponsor licence cooling off sounds quite pleasant with visions of Mediterranean dips into the ocean. It isn’t pleasant – far from it. It can damage or even ruin your business, even though many sponsor licence applicants and sponsor licence holders haven’t heard of the Home Office ability to impose a cooling off period.

If the Home Office decide to refuse your sponsor licence application or to revoke an existing sponsor licence, it can impose a cooling off period during which time your business cannot reapply for a new sponsor licence.

You may think that isn’t so bad as you can continue as before until you have ‘done your time’ and you can then reapply for a sponsor licence but it isn’t as simple as that.

Whilst business immigration solicitors are experts in corporate immigration law, the impact of losing your sponsor licence and having a cooling off period imposed on you, affects many other areas of law and can have a ripple effect on your business.

Cooling off can create all sorts of legal issues, such as:

  • Employment – retention of sponsored employees
  • Commercial contract disputes – inability to comply with contractual obligations if you do not have the staff to fill orders
  • Property and landlord and tenant – there is no requirement for large premises if you have had to let go of sponsored employees and you need to cut back on overheads
  • Regulatory law – if there is an investigation into practices at your company. For example, non-compliance with the requirement to conduct right to work checks

The list goes on because a cooling off period can result in all sorts of unforeseen consequences that can either damage your brand or reduce or annihilate profit.

What can my business do to avoid a sponsor licence cooling off period?

Time and again Sponsorship Licence lawyers think to themselves, ‘if only they had called me sooner’. We don’t like to see hard pressed business owners facing awful consequences or your sponsored employees losing their jobs and homes. Here are some practical tips on what your business can do to avoid a sponsor licence cooling off period:

  • Only apply for your sponsor licence when you are ready – with Brexit and the end of free movement and the recruitment crisis impacting on many sectors of the UK economy it is tempting to apply for your sponsor licence as quickly as you can so your company can join the increasing number of UK businesses sponsoring workers on the skilled worker visa. Delay can save you money and the reputation of your firm. Through getting your current HR practices and office systems audited you can best ensure that you can meet sponsor licence reporting and recording duties and ensure your sponsor licence isn’t revoked.
  • Don’t expect too much of your key personnel – it is easy to blame a level one or level two user for not using the Home Office sponsor management system correctly. However, they are not business immigration lawyers and they are normally juggling HR and administrative responsibilities whilst trying to keep up to date with sponsor licence reporting and recording duties. Invest in sponsor licence training for key personnel by Sponsorship Licence lawyers or get your sponsor licence managed by professional sponsor licence management service providers.
  • Call your Sponsorship Licence lawyers – if you are not sure that you are complying fully with your sponsor licence reporting and recording duties, or whether you need to repeat a right to work check on an employee with pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, or if the certificate of sponsorship you want to allocate really fits the standardised occupation code, then call OTS Solicitors to get help. That way you can avoid problems as if questions aren’t asked and answered and issues tackled early, it can lead to your sponsor licence being revoked.

Sponsorship Licence lawyers say often business owners put off calling their business immigration solicitors, either because they are embarrassed at the ‘mess’ made of their paperwork or because they don’t realise the serious implications of what they view as minor infringements of Home Office red tape. There is normally a time when a Sponsorship Licence lawyer can turn the situation around by early intervention and getting your sponsor licence management back on track.

How long is the sponsor licence cooling off period?

When your sponsor licence is revoked it is the Home Office who decides on the cooling off period. The normal time frame is 12 months but it can be longer, depending on the reasons behind the decision to revoke the sponsor licence.

What happens during a sponsor licence cooling off period?

The cooling off period means your sponsor licence is revoked and until the cooling off period ends you can't apply for a new sponsor licence. That means you can't do any of the things you would normally do with a sponsor licence, namely recruit workers who need a sponsoring employer or continue to employ overseas workers who are sponsored with allocated certificates of sponsorship.

Depending on your recruitment plans, and the degree to which you are currently reliant on overseas staff, the revocation of your sponsor licence could be a disastrous step or simply present extremely difficult and challenging circumstances, depending on your reliance on sponsored workers.

The effect of the cooling off period on sponsored workers

The revocation of a sponsor licence and the imposition of a cooling off period means a sponsored worker will lose their job with you. That’s because the immigration rules say that a current sponsored employee will have:

  • Their certificate of sponsorship cancelled
  • Their visa limited to 60 days (unless the visa has less time to run than 60 days and then the sponsored worker can stay in the UK for however long is left on their visa or unless the worker did something so serious that it was their act that led to sponsor licence revocation in which case, the Home Office may say that the worker will have to leave the UK more quickly)

If a sponsored worker can get another job with a new sponsoring employer with the right type of sponsor licence, then they can stay in the UK provided they can get allocated a certificate of sponsorship and can secure a new work visa.

Why does the Home Office impose sponsor licence cooling off periods?

Sponsorship Licence lawyers believe the Home Office imposes cooling off periods because the Home Office are of the view that if a business could make repeat sponsor licence applications after each revocation there would be no real deterrent to not complying with sponsor licence duties or an incentive to follow the immigration rules.

The cooling-off period is imposed for what the Home Office deem to be serious compliance breaches. Examples include:

  • Employing illegal workers
  • Not carrying out right to work checks
  • Widespread or repeat failure to carry out the correct right to work checks
  • Employing sponsored workers and paying them less than the minimum salary threshold
  • Employing a sponsored worker to do a different role to that specified on the certificate of sponsorship
  • Not complying with reporting and recording duties – if the breaches are minor the Home Office may suspend the sponsor licence and agree an action plan that the sponsoring employer has to comply with in order for the Home Office to agree to reinstate the sponsor licence

If you think that an action plan is an easy option then Sponsorship Licence lawyers say it isn’t. That’s because the immigration rules don’t allow your business to remain on an action plan indefinitely. If you can't carry out the identified actions in the plan then the Home Office will revoke the sponsor licence and your business may then be subject to a cooling off period before it can reapply for another sponsor licence.

What happens if a sponsor licence application is refused?

If your first sponsor licence application or your renewal application are refused the Home Office can impose a cooling off period before you can apply again. The cooling off period is normally six months.

Sponsorship Licence lawyers recommend urgent immigration legal advice if your application for a sponsorship licence is refused as in some cases if the refusal is down to minor paperwork errors, they may be able to sort the problem out.

If your sponsor licence application problems are more serious in nature, then business immigration solicitors can help you address the issues to ensure that the next time you submit a sponsor licence application the process is as smooth as possible.

Examples of potentially serious issues with a sponsor licence application that justify a Home Office refusal and the imposition of a cooling off period include:

  • The business not having the right systems and policies in place to meet sponsor licence reporting and recording duties
  • The business was not able to show that it genuinely needs to recruit overseas workers
  • The business has been employing illegal workers
  • A Home Office sponsor licence application audit reveals wholescale failure to comply with right to work checks
  • A nominated key personnel member was unsuitable because they previously held a similar role in a business where the sponsor licence was revoked

From the point of view of specialist Sponsorship Licence lawyers, it is frustrating to see new business clients needing immigration advice on sponsor licence appeal options as their sponsor licence application has been refused. Often the refusal is down to missed paperwork or because the right expert advice was not taken on the best key personnel to appoint. Alternatively, the carrying out of a mock audit of HR policies could have avoided the sponsor licence application being rejected by the Home Office.

Even if the Home Office do not impose a six month cooling off period before your new Sponsorship Licence lawyers can apply for your sponsor licence again, you will still have to go through the same application process and wait for a sponsor licence decision, putting your overseas recruitment plans on hold.

How can Sponsorship Licence lawyers at OTS Solicitors help your business?

We are experts in all things sponsor licence and can help you with your sponsor licence application and its management.

If you have had an application refused, we can review the decision with you and look out why you or your previous immigration solicitors were not successful and then apply again.

If your sponsor licence is at risk of suspension or revocation then we can proactively help you address the risks to your sponsor licence by taking over the management of your sponsor licence through our professional sponsor management service or we can support your staff with additional sponsor licence training or through mock audits.

You will find our Sponsorship Licence lawyers friendly and helpful with legal sponsor licence know how combined with practical advice and guidance.

UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For sponsor licence advice call the Sponsorship Licence lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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