There are a number of potential outcomes following the investigation during the period of a sponsor licence suspension. Appropriate action may include one or more the following:
- Reinstate your sponsor licence with an A-rating;
- Reinstate your sponsor licence with a B-rating (and issue you with an action plan);
- Prevent you from assigning any new CoS;
- Prevent the use of any assigned, but unused, CoS; or
- Revoke your sponsor licence.
Reinstatement of sponsor licence with an A - rating
The best possible outcome is, of course, for your sponsor licence to be reinstated with an A-rating. This means that you will be able to resume sponsoring migrants as before the suspension. You will appear on the sponsor register once more. Your sponsor duties will continue as normal.
Downgrading of sponsor licence - reinstatement with a B - rating
The Home Office's guidance states:
C9.23. If we reinstate your licence with a B-rating, you will not be given a further 20 working days to reply as this process will have been completed during the period your licence was suspended.
C9.24. Re-instatement with a B-rating means you must comply with an action plan. We may also reduce, or set to zero, the number of CoS you are allowed to assign.
A B-rating is a transitional rating. The purpose is to allow sponsors to improve their performance enough to be upgraded to an A-rating within a specified time limit, not exceeding 3 months. If the sponsor does not meet the required standard within the specified timeframe, the licence will be revoked. Therefore, if you are downgraded to a B-rating, it is essential that you adhere to the steps set out in the action plan.
The action plan will be bespoke for the Company. It may include, for example, making improvements to your record- keeping, improving your control over staff who assign CoS, improving your training programme, or improving communication between your different branches so you know when a sponsored worker has not turned up for work.
The fee for an action plan is currently £1,476 (September 2022). You must pay the fee within 10 working days, otherwise the sponsor licence will be revoked.
At the end of the 3 month period, the Home Office may:
- Revoke the sponsor licence if it considers that you have not met the requirements of the action plan or there are more serious areas of non-compliance;
- Issue a new action plan (subject to an additional fee) if they find other areas of non-compliance (not justifying immediate revocation) not addressed by the previous action plan; or
- Restore your A-rating where they consider that you have met all requirements.
A compliance visit will be undertaken during the 3 month period. It is possible to request a compliance check prior to the end of the 3 month period. This should only be done if you are certain that you have met all the requirements of the action plan.
You can only be B-rated and subject to an action plan for a maximum of:
- 3 months at any one time in respect of any single action plan; or
- Twice during the validity period of the licence.
In a response to the suspension notice, you can, in the first instance, request that the sponsor licence be reinstated to an A-rating. As an alternative, you can request that the sponsor licence be reinstated with a B-rating and that the Company will comply with any appropriate action plan.
Revocation of the sponsor licence
The guidance states:
C10.1. Certain circumstances can lead to your sponsor licence being revoked.
These include, but are not limited to, where:
- you cease to have (or never had) a trading presence
- you cease to meet the requirements of the route, or routes, in which you are licensed
- there is a serious or systematic breach of your sponsor duties
- you pose a threat to immigration control
- you have been convicted of a relevant criminal offence (see Annex L4 of Part 1: Apply for a licence) or issued with a specified civil penalty
- you are engaging or having engaged in behaviour or actions that are not conducive to the public good
Revocation and implications for staff
If your sponsor licence is revoked, it will be revoked in all the routes in which you are licensed. You will be notified in writing if your sponsor licence has been revoked. There is no right of appeal against the decision and you will not be eligible to apply again for a sponsor licence until at least 12 months (longer in some circumstances) have passed since the date of revocation.
You will not be able to sponsor any more workers and the Home Office will cancel the permission of any workers you are sponsoring. Workers will be notified of the revocation. Your organisation's details will be removed from the public register of Worker and Temporary Worker sponsors. Any CoS that you have assigned will become invalid and any worker due to enter the UK (having already been granted leave to enter) will have their leave cancelled.
Avoiding your sponsor licence being downgraded / revoked
The only way to avoid your licence being downgraded / revoked is to ensure that you are properly complying with your sponsorship duties. The Home Office can conduct a compliance visit on an announced or unannounced basis, therefore, you should ensure that you are complying with your duties (including reporting and record keeping) at all times. You should also ensure that all policies and systems are up-to-date and in place for enabling compliance of the duties.
If you are not sure what your duties are, or would like assistance with preparing policies and systems, you should consult an immigration lawyer.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.