Described by Chambers & Partners as ‘a leading adviser on compliance and risk management for businesses’, our immigration team provides pragmatic and commercial legal advice to sponsors that have received a sponsor licence suspension or revocation letter from the Home Office.
If you have received a sponsor licence suspension letter from the Home Office and would like to discuss this on a no obligation basis initially, please contact us, or you can simply make an enquiry here.
Home Office compliance visits
Home Office compliance visits to sponsors are now a regular occurrence. During these visits enforcement officers will ask a number of questions such as:
- are sponsored migrants carrying out the duties referred to on their Certificates of Sponsorship (‘CoS’) and is the work sufficiently skilled?
- are they filling a genuine vacancy?
- are they being paid in accordance with the rules?
- is the sponsor monitoring and tracking migrants in accordance with their sponsor duties and are reports being made to the Home Office in time?
- was the sponsor required to carry out a Resident Labour Market Test (‘RLMT’) and, if so, do the files for sponsored migrants contain all the documents and information as required under Appendix D of the Sponsor Guidance?
- if a RLMT was not required, for example if a migrant was switching from Tier 4 into Tier 2, is the reason for the exemption clear from the CoS (if not, they may expect a RLMT to have been completed in any event)?
- has the sponsor notified the Home Office of any relevant changes to its business such as a change of owners, a change of address, the addition of new branches where sponsored migrants will work etc?
- are the positions of Authorising Officer, Key Contact, Level 1 User and Level 2 User held by suitable persons?
- do all the sponsor’s employees have the right to work in the UK and is the sponsor conducting right to work checks in accordance with the rules?
During the course of an investigation, the sponsor’s key personnel may be interviewed at length and the sponsor may be required to provide detailed evidence in relation to any questions the officers have. It is important that sponsors have a plan in place to deal with visits from the Home Office.
Breach of the genuine vacancy rule and other allegations
At the moment, when considering whether or not to initiate sponsor licence suspension action, the Home Office is particularly concerned about ‘abuse’ in relation to the ‘genuine vacancy‘ rule. The Tier 2 & 5 Guidance for Sponsors states that sponsorship ‘provides evidence that the migrant will fill a genuine vacancy that can’t be filled with a suitably qualified or skilled settled worker….’ The Home Office will need to be satisfied that there is a genuine vacancy and that it can’t be filled with a suitably qualified or skilled settled worker regardless of whether or not one of the technical exceptions to the specific resident labour market test applies.
In sponsor licence suspension letters, the Home Office will generally set out a number of substantial allegations – typically relating to the genuine vacancy rule – but it will also often set out a number of more technical breaches such as failure to pay the sponsored worker in accordance with the information on the CoS, failure to make reports in accordance with the Sponsor Guidance, failure to retain evidence of a compliant Resident Labour Market Test, failure to ensure that Level 1 Users protect their passwords etc.
Sponsor licence suspension process
If the Home Office is concerned that a sponsor is not acting in accordance with the Sponsor Guidance, it will initiate sponsor licence suspension action and grant the sponsor 20 working days in which to respond. Failure to provide a detailed response addressing each allegation will result in the sponsor licence being revoked. This time passes quickly and the process for collating evidence should not be delayed. Owners and managers of sponsors that have had their licence suspended should avoid the temptation of firing off a heated reply to the Home Office as such conduct is unlikely to strengthen the sponsor’s position and may weaken it.
Dealing with a sponsor licence suspension can be extremely disruptive, costly and stressful for owners, managers and sponsored workers alike. It is far more effective for a sponsor to invest manpower and time in carrying out regular compliance reviews to ensure that there is full compliance with the very latest version of the Sponsor Guidance.
How we can help
Our team helps sponsors to strengthen their overall compliance thereby avoiding sponsor licence suspension and revocation action. Where enforcement action has been initiated by UKVI and the sponsor’s licence has been suspended we will work with the sponsor to ensure that a robust case is presented to UKVI addressing the issues raised in the suspension letter and seeking the reinstatement of the licence. We have achieved numerous positive outcomes for sponsors.
In cases where the sponsor licence has been revoked, or where there are other urgent issues that need to be dealt with by the court, such as the expiry of leave for sponsored workers following a suspension of the sponsor licence, we can be retained to initiate High Court action including applications for interim relief and judicial review.
Our team helps sponsors to strengthen their overall compliance thereby avoiding sponsor licence suspension and revocation action. Where enforcement action has been initiated by UKVI and the sponsor’s licence has been suspended we will work with the sponsor to ensure that a robust case is presented to UKVI addressing the issues raised in the suspension letter and seeking the reinstatement of the licence. We have achieved positive outcomes for numerous sponsors.
For businesses that have received a sponsor licence suspension or revocation letter, if you send an email attaching the letter to us at firstname.lastname@example.org we will review it and hold an initial telephone consultation with you at no charge.
If you need legal advice on this complex area of law or require a compliance review from our team of specialists, please contact us.