In this blog, we will reflect on the questions that we, as immigration lawyers, are most frequently asked about businesses’ being registered sponsors. We will focus on questions asked by businesses that already hold a UKVI sponsor licence.
How long will a sponsor licence be valid?
Sponsor licences are issued to employers for 4 years. If you do not apply to renew your licence before the expiry date, it will automatically expire.
Your licence expiry date can be found in your Sponsor Management System (SMS) under the ‘Licence Summary’ tab.
The Home Office will automatically email your authorising officer and level 1 user approximately 3 months before a licence’s expiry date to advise that the window to renew is open. It is a requirement as a registered sponsor to keep your organisation details up to date, and this includes your authorising officer’s and level 1 user’s contact details. It is important that you have complied with your duties in relation to maintaining up-to-date records of your key personnel.
You should diarise the date your licence expires so you are not reliant on the Home Office alone to notify you of the impending expiry date.
Will the Home Office visit our UK office?
The Home Office has the authority to undertake inspections of businesses that are registered sponsors (as well as those who are applying for licences and those who allow sponsored workers at their premises even when they do not hold a licence).
The Home Office grants sponsor licences to businesses on the condition that compliance duties set out in the guidance are met and will continue to be met. Visits can be picked at random or based on intelligence received. A trigger for a visit can also be the renewal of a licence.
Visits can be announced or unannounced. If a visit is announced, companies will normally receive one week’s notice. The Home Office will contact the authorising officer to let them know when the visit will take place and will often provide a list of sponsored workers they intend to interview or of files they intend to audit.
If the visit is unannounced, the Home Office compliance team will attend the registered office listed on the sponsor licence and ask for the named authorising officer.
Given that visits can be unannounced, it is crucial that sponsors maintain compliance with their licence duties.
Can sponsor licences be revoked?
If a licenced sponsor does not continue to satisfy the various compliance duties required, the Home Office has the authority to take enforcement action against them.
The Home Office operates a ‘light trigger’ approach to enforcement action, meaning that relatively minor breaches in compliance can result in revocation. If you receive notification from the Home Office that your licence is being revoked, you will have a limited time in which to respond.
Revocation means that your licence will be cancelled with immediate effect and any sponsored workers you employ will have to leave their jobs at the company. Their skilled worker leave will be curtailed by the Home Office and they will have 60 days to leave the UK or find an alternative sponsor.
The consequence of revocation is likely to be extremely damaging to your business interests, especially with labour shortages currently being experienced across the board.
Can sponsored workers change sponsors within the UK?
The short answer is yes. Sponsored workers can move between jobs provided their new employer has a sponsor licence and issues them with a certificate of sponsorship. They will need to submit a new application for a skilled worker visa with the new certificate of sponsorship.
Does my business have to complete a Resident Labour Market Test before sponsoring a worker?
The formal resident labour market test was abolished in December 2020. However, employers must still demonstrate that they are offering genuine employment that meets the relevant skill and salary requirements for the role.