Authorised Officers: SMS Duties 

When applying for a Tier 2 sponsor licence, the organisation must appoint an ‘Authorising Officer’.

It will be critical for the individual appointed to fully understand the importance of the role and the duties it places on them. Where the Home Office alleges an organisation is in breach of its licence, significant penalties can be imposed.

What is the Authorising Officer?

Sponsors are required to nominate various key personnel responsible for using the SMS, namely:

  • An Authorising Officer – responsible for ensuring that the duties placed on the organisation under the sponsor licence are met.
  • A Key Contact – the main point of contact between your organisation and UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), the division of the Home Office responsible for the UK visa system.
  • Level 1 User(s) – responsible for carrying out the day-to-day activities using the sponsor management system, from assigning certificates of sponsorship and reporting migrant worker activities, to updating the SMS and renewing the sponsor licence.
  • Level 2 User(s)

The Authorising Officer has ultimately responsibility for the activities of any staff, or third party representative(s), authorised to use the sponsor management system. It is also their responsibility to decide how many staff need to have access to the SMS and what level of permission they can have.

They will often be the first and primary point of contact for your organisation with UKVI. They will receive e-mails concerning changes to sponsors’ duties, the need to renew Certificates of Sponsorship or the licence itself, for example.

They are also required to authorise most of the changes or updates to your licence e.g notifying UKVI of a new branch.

Who can be nominated as an Authorising Officer?

The Authorising Officer has to be the most senior person within the organisation responsible for the recruitment of PBS workers.

It is possible to be appointed as both Authorising Officer and a Level 1 User, either from the initial application stage or following the grant of the sponsor licence.

When assessing an application for a sponsor licence, UKVI will consider the background and suitability of both the employer and all nominated key personnel, not least in terms of any unspent criminal convictions for a relevant offence, or a history of previous immigration violations or non-compliance with sponsor requirements. All key personnel must also be permanently based in the UK for the duration of the period that they fill the role they have been appointed to.

Authorising officers & the SMS 

The sponsor management system (SMS) is used by organisations to administer the day-to-day sponsorship duties and activities relating to the effective management of its sponsor licence, including:

  • managing key personnel and licence details
  • creating, assigning and viewing Certificates of Sponsorship
  • applying for and assigning restricted CoS
  • reporting activities relating to sponsored workers
  • renewing your allocations and applying for additional CoS
  • applying for premium customer service, where sought
  • tracking premium and licence renewal applications, and
  • paying for and tracking the progress of action plans

The Authorising Officer however will not have automatic access to the SMS to carry out any of the practical functions relating to sponsoring migrant workers, unless they are also nominated as a Level 1 user.

What are the AO’s duties?

The Authorising Officer is responsible for ensuring that the duties placed on the employer under the sponsor licence are met.

These include:

  • Record-keeping duties – to retain any documents submitted as part of the application for a sponsor licence, including documents relating to each migrant worker, together with their up-to-date contact details.
  • Reporting duties – to report certain activities relating to migrant workers within a specified timeframe, in particular non-attendance, non-compliance or disappearance, as well as any significant changes in the size or structure of the organisation.
  • Monitoring duties – to monitor the immigration status of sponsored migrant workers so as to prevent illegal working. In particular, they must only assign certificates of sponsorship to migrants who are appropriately qualified, registered and/or experienced to do the job on offer, and no longer employ migrants who are no longer permitted to do the job in question, for example, their leave to remain has expired.

It is essential that the Authorising Officer regularly reviews activity relating to the SMS and that key personnel are performing their duties and kept updated any changes in the rules governing licence compliance.

What are the consequences of non-compliance?

Failure to comply the UKVI requirements for using the system, or to ensure compliance on the part of any other SMS users, will result in action being taken against the employer as the sponsor licence holder.

Penalties can include the following:

  • Downgrading the sponsor licence rating from “A” to “B” – this can involve a time-limited action plan, at your employer’s expense, to restore the rating to a grade “A”.
  • Suspension or revocation of the sponsor licence – typically this is where there has been a significant or systematic failing, and the sponsor licence holder is deemed to pose a serious threat to immigration control.
  • Where the Home Office alleges right to work duties have been breached, the organisation could face a civil penalty.

Do you have a question about the SMS?

Organisations need to ensure key personnel are appointed and trained to carry out their duties effectively. In addition, there should be effective systems in place to monitor and check the activities of all system users, to maintain continued compliance. For example, as a minimum, CoSs assigned to migrant employees should be checked on a monthly basis.

DavidsonMorris specialise in all aspects of UK sponsorship licences, from applications and extensions through to ongoing management and compliance. We offer training for key personnel and can support you if the Home Office is alleging your organisation has breached its compliance duties.

For advice on any aspect of your sponsor licence or compliant use of the SMS, contact us.