What Are Sponsor Licence Holder Duties?
As a sponsor licence holder, it will be your responsibility to ensure that your business and employees adhere to UK laws and regulations. You will be expected to keep track of any trading and work activities, the immigration status of your workers, as well as any other activities that might have implications under UK immigration laws and general legislation.
Your duties include:
- Record Keeping
- Compliance with UK Immigration Laws
- Compliance with wider UK Law
- Fostering an environment that is conducive to the public good.
- What Are Sponsor Licence Holder Duties?
- Reporting Duties
- Changes Affecting Employees
- Changes Affecting Your Business
- Record Keeping Duties
- Compliance with UK Immigration Laws
- Compliance with Wider UK Law
- Fostering a Positive Environment
- Additional Sponsorship Duties
- Compliance Checks
- Failing to Comply with Your Sponsor Duties
- Licence Downgrades
- How Can Total Law Help?
Your duties as a sponsor will start on the day your sponsor licence is approved and will last for as long as you maintain a valid sponsor licence.
Your duties will end when:
- You give up your sponsor licence
- Your licence is made dormant (this might happen if your business is taken over by another organisation)
- Your licence is revoked
Responsibilities associated with individual workers will start as soon as they are assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). Individual responsibilities may end under any of the following circumstances:
- The employee’s CoS is withdrawn or cancelled before it is used to apply for entry clearance or permission
- The employee’s permission expires without having been assigned a new CoS
- The employee’s permission expires while they are outside of the UK (unless they are assigned a new CoS or retain their right to re-entry under the old CoS through the Creative Worker visa concession)
- You stop sponsoring the employee
If you are a sponsor under the Scale-up route, your specific responsibilities to the worker will end after 6 months from their initial start date when the employee no longer requires sponsorship.
You will be expected to report relevant changes that affect an employee’s status or the trading activities of your business. In general, changes affecting a sponsored worker need to be reported within 10 working days. Changes to your business structure will need to be reported within 20 working days. There may be specific circumstances that require a different timeline.
Who Can Report Changes?
Sponsoring businesses are required to have a functional HR department to manage all foreign workers. This includes assigning an Authorising Officer and Key Contact, as well as Level 1 and Level 2 Users.
Changes will usually need to be reported by the relevant Level 1 User who has access to the sponsorship management system (SMS). Some changes may be reported by Level 2 Users. It will usually be expected that circumstances are further explained when reporting, including reasons, duration of changed activity, or any other relevant details.
You will need to file a report when your employee’s circumstances change. Examples include:
- The worker you are sponsoring did not start working for you within 28 days
- The worker you are sponsoring is absent for over 10 days in a row (without authorisation)
- The worker you are sponsoring is absent for over 4 weeks in a year (with no pay or reduced pay)
- The Scale-up worker you are sponsoring is absent for over 4 weeks in the duration of their sponsorship (with no pay or reduced pay)
- You are reducing the sponsored worker’s salary from the amount stated on their CoS (must continue to meet National Minimum Wage requirements)
- There are changes to the sponsored worker’s status of employment (including promotions and changes of duties
- Your employee’s work location changes
- You stop sponsoring the worker
Sponsored workers are required to attend work without significant absences. There may be valid exceptions, but you must report their absence nonetheless.
Permissible absences include:
- Sick leave
- Statutory maternity/paternity/parental leave
- Statutory adoption leave
- Involvement in humanitarian/environmental assistance during a crisis (must be agreed upon)
- Participation in legally organised industrial action
- Attending court for jury service/as a witness
If your worker’s absence isn’t covered by these examples but you believe that there is a compelling reason, you will be able to explain this when reporting. UKVI may permit continued sponsorship of a worker under special circumstances but reserves the right to reject this.
Changes of Work Location
If there are changes to where or how your employee will be working, you must inform UKVI.
- Working at a different branch, office, or site
- Working from home (remotely) on a full-time (permanent) basis
- Shifting to a hybrid working pattern (partially remote)
Keep in mind that reportable circumstances constitute significant and intended long-term changes. Occasional changes to the routine will not need to be reported.
When You Stop Sponsoring a Worker
Your worker’s legal status in the UK depends on your sponsorship, so you have to inform UKVI when this support is withdrawn.
Reasons may include:
- The worker was not granted entry
- The worker’s permission was cancelled
- The worker decides not to work for you
- You withdraw the Worker’s CoS
- The worker’s employment ends before the date on the CoS
- The worker loses their required accreditation status
- The worker has been absent for over 4 weeks without exception
- The worker has been granted settled status or a permission that doesn’t require sponsorship
- You are informed by the Home Office that a reported change to the worker’s circumstances is not accepted
If you are sponsoring an offshore worker, you will additionally need to notify UKVI when the worker arrives or leaves UK waters. This must be done no earlier than on their date of arrival and within 10 working days after their arrival or departure. Reports about offshore workers must be submitted via email instead of the sponsorship management system (SMS).
If you are unsure what to include when filing a report via e-mail, you can call Total Law at 0333 305 9375. We will be happy to help you make sure that you do not miss any important details.
Changes Affecting Your Business
If the circumstances of your business change, you will need to make a report. This might include changes to your trading activity, address, or your Key Personnel. You can file a report by completing the sponsor change of circumstance form on the sponsorship management system (SMS).
You need to file a report when:
- Your Key Personnel changes (Authorising Officer or Key Contact)
- The contact information for your Key Personnel changes (Authorising Officer or Key Contact)
- The details of your business change (such as name changes, address changes, new contact details, or new head office details)
- Your business structure changes (such as new branches, new linked entities in the UK, or new linked entities overseas for Global Business Mobility sponsors)
- There are changes to your business registration or accreditation that affect your eligibility as a legally trading business or sponsor
- You stop trading or become insolvent
- Your business is subject to a takeover, merger, or similar changes
- Anyone holding a key role in your business is convicted of a relevant offence (including assault, grievous bodily harm, or homicide)
- There are changes to your business size (sponsor size) or charitable status
- Any other significant changes in the structure or nature of your business
- You relinquish your sponsor licence
Sponsor licence holders must keep records of their international workers, including information on their immigration status in the UK. You must adhere to any legal requirements when keeping records, including privacy regulations and data protection.
While the documents you are required to keep may vary for specific sponsorship pathways, you are generally expected to have a record of the following:
- Evidence of the worker’s legal right to work for you in the UK
- Record of your worker’s qualifications
- Evidence of the worker’s date of entry into the UK
- Evidence of the worker’s National Insurance Number (NIN)
- Current contact details for your employee (UK address, personal email address and telephone number)
- A copy of the worker’s Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check (if applicable)
- A record of absences for each worker
- Any other documents related to the specific requirements of your chosen sponsorship route
If you are sponsoring a child under the school leaving age, or any worker under the age of 18, you will also need to have the signed letter of consent from a parent or legal guardian.
Evidence of Recruitment
As part of your record-keeping duties, you will need to keep evidence of the recruitment process employed to hire a worker. You should aim to show that you have followed the required procedures, including showing that you had a genuine need for an international employee and didn’t displace a suitable UK candidate.
Evidence might include:
- Details of the job advertisement (showing job title, location, duties, requirements, and other relevant information)
- Details of hosting website for job advertisement
- Details of any government job search services involved in the process
- Details of shortlisted applications (even if not selected)
- Reasons why settled workers or those with priority permission were not selected for the job (if applicable)
- Details of recruitment activities and interview methods
- If applicable, details of completed resident labour consideration (formerly known as resident labour market test)
- Details of compliance with specific regulations (such as the creative sector code of practice)
- Details of endorsement for workers (where applicable)
You will need to keep details about the salary paid out to sponsored workers proving that you have met the minimum pay requirements for specific sponsorship routes. Details include the worker’s contract, payslips, and details of the frequency of payments made.
Compliance with UK Immigration Laws
As a sponsor, it should be your priority to maintain full compliance with UK immigration rules.
- Ensuring all workers are suitably qualified for their position
- Ensuring all workers meet their immigration requirements (and continue to do so during employment)
- Offering a genuine vacancy (This is a suitable job role with specific duties that meets all sponsor licence requirements of the selected sponsorship route. It must actually exist, meet a genuine need in the business, and be paid according to regulations)
- Not abusing your sponsor licence to facilitate immigration for other than work-related purposes (This includes not assigning Certificates of Sponsorship to family members of anyone associated with your company)
Compliance with Wider UK Law
On top of all other specific duties, you must make sure that you, your business, and your employees adhere to UK laws and regulations at all times. This includes maintaining all relevant registrations, qualifications, and permissions, as well as holding suitable rights to your work sites, and offices.
You must pay your taxes and ensure that your workers pay theirs.
Should you become aware of any breaches to legal operations or activities, it is your duty to report this.
Fostering a Positive Environment
Sponsoring organisations must lead by example and maintain a welcoming, tolerant, and safe work environment. This includes taking action against elements of hatred, discrimination of any nature, or other inter-community division. There must be no signs of exploitation, undue punishment of workers, or otherwise unsustainable working conditions.
There may be circumstances where past actions associated with your business may be taken into account to assess your eligibility to become or stay a sponsor, even if you did not hold an active licence at the time. This includes but is not limited to evidence of animal cruelty or abuse, any kind of criminal activity, or general behaviour that conflicts with the interests of the general public.
Additional Sponsorship Duties
Depending on the route of sponsorship, you may have additional responsibilities:
- Sponsors of Scale-up workers need to report the actual date the sponsored employee starts working for their business
- Sponsors of overseas qualified nurses or midwives (Skilled Worker route) must report the date they complete their NMC registration (or failure to do so) within 8 months
- Sponsors of UK Expansion Workers must report when their Authorising Officer (AO) has been granted clearance to enter the UK
- Sponsors of Creative Workers that are under the school-leaving age have additional safeguarding duties
You will be subject to compliance checks or visits which may happen before your sponsor licence application is approved or anytime after. You may be asked to share your records or provide additional documentation. There will be regular checks with HMRC to make sure that you are paying appropriate salaries to your workers.
Compliance checks may also include digital interviews or site visits to make sure that the information you have provided is factual. Compliance officers may request to speak with your sponsored workers or other employees and inspect your business sites and systems. You must co-operate during a compliance visit and allow reasonable access where requested.
You will be informed of any outcomes in writing.
Failing to Comply with Your Sponsor Duties
Should you be found in breach of requirements or fail to uphold your duties as a sponsor, you will face sanctions from the Home Office which may include:
- Limiting the number of Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) you may allocate. (It may be set to 0)
- Downgrading the rating of your sponsor licence
- Licence suspension (pending further investigation)
- Revoking your worker’s permission to remain in the UK
- Reporting you or your business to the police (or other relevant authorities)
Sponsor licences are usually issued with an A-rating. Should there be problems with your ability to maintain your requirements as a sponsor, your licence may be downgraded to a B-rating. When this happens, you will be subject to a time-limited action plan and must pay a fee of £1,476. You have 3 months to improve your rating or your licence will be removed. Should you decline this procedure, you will also lose your sponsor licence. You will not be able to sponsor new workers until your sponsorship licence has been restored to an A-rating.
You should keep in mind that you will not receive a licence downgrade if you are a Provisional sponsor on the UK Expansion Worker path. Should you fail to meet your requirements, your licence may be revoked.
How Can Total Law Help?
While sponsoring international workers can be an essential step in growing and maintaining your business, you will need to make sure to understand and fully comply with the associated sponsor licence duties. Failing to do so may not only affect your ability to sponsor new workers but may have severe legal implications for you and your business.
If you are unsure about your responsibilities, have been found in breach, or require advice on your specific circumstances, you can call us today at 0333 305 9375. Our team has years of experience navigating UK sponsor duties and will be happy to support you in any way you need.
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You will need to keep them until one year has passed since you stopped sponsoring an employee, or until a compliance officer has approved the documents.
No, you should not use your privilege as a sponsor to facilitate UK immigration for anyone with a close connection to you or key members of your business. If you do, you may be found in breach of UK immigration law.