When your sponsor licence application is approved, your sponsor licence will normally be valid for four years. The next step is to know how to maintain your sponsor licence. The Home Office will continue to monitor compliance with your duties as a sponsor, including checking with HMRC to ensure that your sponsored workers are paid appropriately. The Home Office may also conduct a compliance check in order to ensure that you are keeping accurate records.
If you do not pay attention to your sponsor duties, there is a risk that your licence could be suspended in the event of an investigation. Our previous posts Sponsor Licence Suspended - What's Next? and Sponsor Licence Suspended - What To Do Now set out the possible outcomes and the steps to take.
Sponsor Licence Duties
After your sponsor licence has been granted, it is time to take note of your sponsor licence duties and ensure that you are properly complying. You can access our sponsor licence duties checklist for employers here.
As a sponsor, you have a duty to report certain events to the Home Office and this includes if a sponsored worker fails to report to work or the sponsored worker no longer works for you. These events must be reported within 10 working days using the Sponsor Management System ('SMS'). For significant events for the organisation, such as when the business is sold or stops trading, these changes must be reported within 20 working days.
Do remember to keep records for each worker and conduct the correct Right to Work checks. Other duties include complying with the Immigration Rules and the wider UK law. This means that you should only employ workers who are qualified to carry out the job and do not assign a Certificate of Sponsorship where there is no genuine vacancy. A reminder that all sponsors also have a duty not to engage in behaviour that is not conducive to the public good.
Understanding the SMS
The SMS is an online function where the Level 1 User can report most changes and manage the services. In most cases, your Level 1 User can report the changes via the SMS, such as replacing your authoring officer or amending the contact details of your organisation. Both Level 1 and Level 2 users can access the SMS, however Level 2 Users have restricted permission. The Home Office has published useful guidance on how to use the SMS and it is worth checking it.
You must have at least one Level 1 User to access the SMS unless you are surrendering your licence. Without a Level 1 User, you will not be able to report any changes. In this situation, a change of circumstances form must be completed to add a Level 1 User.
Key Personnel in the Organisation
We published an article on Key Personnel in Sponsor Licence Applications earlier this year and the roles of the Authorising Officer, Level 1 User and Key Contact were explained.
A reminder of who can undertake the following roles:
- Authoring Officer: this must be the most senior person in the organisation who is involved in recruitment and is responsible for all SMS users. They can also be named as a Level 1 User;
- Level 1 User: this person has access to the SMS and can carry out a number of activities, including assigning CoS. Once the application is approved, a UK-based representative can be added as another Level 1 User;
- Key Contact: this person will act as the main contact with the Home Office;
It is important to note who is eligible to undertake these roles if you consider changing your key personnel.
Do be prepared in the event that the Home Office conducts a compliance visit at random. We discussed here what could trigger a compliance visit and how your business can prepare for the visit. They may want to check that you are complying with your duties as a sponsor and to ensure that there is no illegal working. As stated in the Home Office guidance, a compliance check can include, but is not limited to, any of the following:
- a compliance visit
- a digital compliance inspection
- a review of evidence or information from our own records, evidence or information you have previously provided submitted to us, any evidence or information we request from you as part of a check
It is useful to have a mock audit to ensure that you have all the correct records and your duties are met. Our immigration barristers can advise you on compliance visits and conduct a mock audit of your business.
Renewal of Your Sponsor Licence
Your sponsor licence is only valid for four years. If you do not renew your licence before it expires, you will not be able to assign any more Certificates of Sponsorship. Any workers who are sponsored by you will have their permission to stay in the UK curtailed or shortened to 60 calendar days unless their visa expires prior to the curtailment. This means that they will not be able to continue to work for you if you do not renew your licence.
You can access your SMS account to submit a sponsor licence renewal application. This can be done 90 days before the expiry date. A reminder will be sent to you before your licence is due to expire.
If you were not able to renew your licence in time, you will need to apply for a new licence. To renew your licence, the Authorising Officer must give permission for the level 1 user to send the application.
Do note that you cannot apply to renew a UK Expansion Worker licence.
Adding Different Routes
There are various routes where you can apply for a sponsor licence to sponsor workers. These are generally divided into worker routes (such as Skilled Worker visas) and temporary worker routes (e.g. Global Business Mobility visas).
Do have a look at our blogs and website for information regarding other routes including:
- Scale-up Sponsor Licence Application Guidance
- Apply for a Health & Care Worker Sponsor Licence
- How To Apply for A Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence
- UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence
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.