What are our current main tips for sponsors to ensure they are maintaining their sponsor licence, even where they are not currently sponsoring any workers? We set these out below.
This follows on from our previous piece in which we explained that UKVI was conducting a review of sponsor licence details.
Sponsor licence duties and responsibilities
A sponsor licence is granted for four years. When an organisation obtains a sponsor licence it must comply with a number of duties and responsibilities, these are set out in Part 3 of the Sponsor Guidance.
A sponsor’s responsibilities start on the day they are granted the licence and will continue until:
- it has surrendered the licence;
- the licence is made dormant; or
- it is revoked.
Many sponsors are unaware that obligations under the licence are not solely limited to sponsored workers. There are also reporting duties relating to the organisation which include:
- reporting changes to the size of the company;
- reporting changes to sponsor’s name(s);
- taking action where there is a sale, merger or and takeover;
- taking action where the sponsor ceases to trade/becomes insolvent;
- reporting other substantial changes to the nature of the business;
- dealing with relevant convictions for relevant personnel.
If a report is needed, this must be made within a specified time, as set out in the Sponsor Guidance.
It is therefore important that sponsors are alert to the triggers that require action so that where required, a report can be made in-time.
What happens if a sponsor fails to comply with their duties?
Sponsors that fail to comply with the sponsor duties risk:
- a reduction to their Certificate of Sponsorship allocation;
- downgrading of their licence;
- suspension of their licence;
- revocation of their licence.
In some cases, UKVI can also report the sponsor to the police or other relevant authorities.
Enforcement action can mean that the sponsor is no longer able to sponsor workers. It can also have a knock-on effect on any other types of sponsor licence (e.g., student route).
If a sponsor licence has been revoked, UKVI can implement a lengthy cooling-off period, preventing the organisation from re-applying for a sponsor licence until the necessary period of time has passed. This can have a disastrous effect on the business if it is reliant on sponsored workers.
UKVI deploys various methods to check whether or not a sponsor is compliant with its duties and responsibilities. It can also undertake a review at any time during the life of the sponsor licence.
Reviews may be undertaken by way of a visit to the sponsor, which can be announced or unannounced, and/or via other means such as requesting that the sponsor provides specific information to UKVI by email and/or by undertaking checks with third parties such as HMRC.
Top tips for sponsors
It is important to ensure that the licence is maintained and up to date. If the licence is no longer required, it should be surrendered.
Set out below are some useful tips for sponsors:
- Ensure that details of all those who hold Key Personnel roles on the licence are correct and that the individual is familiar with the Sponsor Guidance. Key Personnel who are not comfortable with the responsibility or who are not on top of the duties should be replaced.
- Regularly review the sponsor duties and files of sponsored workers. Ensure relevant changes are reported in-time.
- Keep on top of general changes to the business – changes of address, name, mergers, etc.
- Ensure the licence is renewed in time (every four years).
- Consider taking legal advice if actual or potential breaches are uncovered.
- Consider regular training/mock audits.
How our Immigration Solicitors can help
We are experienced in advising sponsors on how to ensure compliance with the sponsor duties and can assist sponsors with a compliance review of their licence.
If you require legal assistance or would just like to discuss your situation with one of our experts, please contact us or complete our enquiry form below.