Sponsor licence holders are being warned of increased Home Office scrutiny when processing CoS requests.
Prior to the change in the CoS regime at the end of 2020, requests for CoS allocations were generally considered to be ‘rubber stamping’ exercises.
However, we are noticing an increase in the number of requests for further information being issued by the Home Office to sponsors when making CoS applications.
Increased Home Office scrutiny
Under new rules introduced at the end of 2020, there are two different types of CoS, defined and undefined Certificates of Sponsorship. The process of requesting a CoS depends on the type that is required.
It is for the employer to determine which type of CoS is required for each sponsored worker. For undefined certificates of sponsorship, requests can be made at any time, with no limit to the number of undefined CoS available.
For defined certificates of sponsorship, the employer effectively has to seek Home Office approval before the CoS can be issued to the worker. Applications can be made at any time and are not limited to application windows or limits.
Recently, we have become aware of sponsors being issued with formal requests for further information in response to making CoS applications.
Queries have related to requests for multiple CoS, with the Home Office querying and requesting information in relation to the exact vacancies that would be coming up over the year that the CoS were required for, and if any of the certificates were for current staff members whose visas were expiring, they have requested the names and dates.
Sponsors are only being given 3 working days to respond.
If the Home Office is not satisfied with the response, they may refuse the application. Given current delays in CoS processing (as below), sponsors will want to avoid restarting the application and the impact this will have on the recruitment process and their sponsored workers’ Home Office application.
The enhanced scrutiny appears to be being applied across the board to different types of employers. For example, we are aware of requests being issued to organisations with strong compliance track records and large sponsored workforces, suggesting all sponsors are potentially at risk of seeing their CoS requests being challenged.
Delays in CoS processing times
As well as the enhanced scrutiny of CoS requests, sponsors are also seeing significant delays in Home Office standard CoS processing.
Standard processing is now taking several weeks, which is resulting in growing demand for the paid-for priority service, which promises 5-day processing.
Advice for sponsor licence holders
This is a notable change in the approach taken by the Home Office in managing and allocating CoS.
This stage no longer appears to be ‘routine’, and we are advising sponsors to consider how a request would be managed in terms of having the information to respond and accounting for the additional time and cost of dealing with the request.
When making the request, for either a defined or undefined CoS, the sponsor should include information about the role the CoS relates to. In addition, it is advisable for undefined CoS requests to include details about the sponsored worker and how they were recruited.
We also recommend being prepared to collate and submit the requested information and paperwork should the CoS application be challenged, and allowing time for any delay in CoS allocation following a request for information. Our business immigration specialists are on hand to deal with any queries or concerns you may have in relation to CoS challenges.
DavidsonMorris’ specialist immigration lawyers are on hand to advise on all aspects of sponsor licence management, including allocations of Certificates of Sponsorships. If you have a query about a request for CoS, or changes to the sponsorship rules under the new immigration system, contact us.
Last updated: 23 May 2021