In our article ‘Tier 2 Sponsor Licence Key Personnel’, we detailed key personnel organisations who hold a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence must have in place to comply with UK immigration rules. In this article, we detail and explain the roles and responsibilities which befall the key personnel.

UKVI requires every business applying for a Tier 2 licence to nominate people to the following roles:

• Authorising Officer
• Key Contact
• Level 1 user

Once you have been granted a licence you can also choose to nominate individuals as Level 2 users.

It’s important that you understand what these roles are all about, and who you can (and critically cannot) appoint to them.

You must also understand what your obligations are in terms of the security of e-mails and passwords issued to anyone carrying out these roles. These must not be shared, even between your Key Personnel.

Finally, you must make sure that you have an Authorising Officer and at least one Level 1 user in place at all times. If a member of staff leaves and you fail to appoint someone else to the role, UKVI can choose to downgrade your licence (and charge you for the opportunity to upgrade it again) or even revoke your licence altogether.

These aren’t just empty threats – the Home Office is now taking an increasingly hard line with compliance in the area of Key Personnel. In the last two to three months we have been approached by a growing number of companies and organisations who have had suspended and revoked licence because of breaches of these requirements. So read this guidance now and take action immediately if you think you may not be compliant.

1. AUTHORISING OFFICER

What is their role?

The Authorising Officer will usually be UKVI’s first and primary point of contact with your organisation. They will receive e-mails concerning changes to sponsors’ duties, the need to renew Certificates of Sponsorship or the licence itself etc. They are also required to authorise most of the changes or updates you might make to your licence (e.g notifying UKVI that you’ve opened a new branch). They do this by signing the Submission Sheet that will be generated whenever you submit a notification of change via the Sponsorship Management System (SMS).

The Authorising Officer will not have automatic access to the SMS to carry out any of the practical functions relating to sponsoring migrant workers – unless you also choose to make them a Level 1 user.

Obligations

When applying for a licence you must appoint an Authorising Officer. And you must have one at all times whilst you hold a licence. If you fail to have an Authorising Officer in place at any point, or have one who doesn’t meet UKVI requirements (e.g they’re not based in the UK) your licence can be suspended, downgraded or even revoked.

You must also report any changes to their contact details to UKVI, again if you fail to do this your licence can be affected.

Who should fill the role?

When the Points Based System was first introduced the Home Office required the Authorising Officer to be a senior member of staff. In the seven years that the PBS system has been operating UKVI have recognised that it’s not helpful for them to have an Authorising Officer who is so senior in the company that they have no involvement with recruitment or immigration and therefore are unable to answer many of UKVI’s queries. Two years ago they therefore amended the requirement for new licence applicants, requiring their Authorising Officer to be the “most senior person responsible for the recruitment of all migrant workers and ensuring that sponsor duties are met”.

If there is more than one person who could fill this role, you can decide who to nominate. Whoever you nominate, you must be sure that they fully understand the importance of the role.

Eligibility

Other requirements for your Authorising Officer are that they must be:

• An employee or officer of the organisation
• Based in the UK
• Entitled to work in the UK (i.e they don’t have to be British as long as they have an appropriate immigration status that enables them to work)
• Free from criminal convictions

2. KEY CONTACT

Your Key Contact is, as the name implies, the UKVI’s other main point of contact for the licence. The Home Office will contact them in the event that they have queries about your sponsor licence application, the documents submitted or the payment.

The Key Contact also does not have automatic access to the SMS. If they require access to
the system they will need to be set up as a level 1 or level 2 user.

Obligations

When applying for a licence you must nominate a key contact. And you should have one at all times whilst you hold a licence.

Who can fill the role?

Your Key Contact can be an employee or officer of the company, or a legal Representative (as long as they are based in the UK.)

3. LEVEL 1 USER

Your Level 1 user(s) will usually be the person or people who are doing your day-to-day immigration work.

They have full access to the Sponsorship Management System (SMS), from which all functions of your licence are operated. That means they can:

• undertake routine sponsorship activities, including assigning Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS), reporting migrant activity and changes of circumstance, request CoS, apply for and assign restricted CoS

• view information about your licence, notify UKVI of changes to your organisation

• apply to renew your licence and track the progress of your application

Obligations

You must always have at least one Level 1 user in place, who can access the SMS to carry out these tasks. In your sponsor application you can only nominate one Level 1 user, and since November 2014 this person must be an employee. Once your licence has been granted you can appoint more Level 1 users, including your Representative or other members of staff. UKVI recommend that you keep numbers to the minimum necessary for effective business operation.

Who can fill the role?

You can appoint any of the following as a Level 1 user:

• an employee or office holder
• your UK-based legal representative
• an employee of a 3rd party company or organisation if you contract out some or all of your HR functions to them.

4. LEVEL 2 USER

Level 2 users also have access to the SMS, but on a much more restricted basis.
They can only:

• assign an Unrestricted CoS
• report migrant activity

They cannot:

• access your general licence information
• report any changes to the organisation
• request or assign a Restricted CoS

You can appoint as many level 2 users as you need once your licence is in place.

Eligibility requirements for all roles

There are some requirements that all of your Key Personnel must meet. They must be:

• Based in the UK
For the duration of the period that they fill one of the Licence roles they must be permanently based in the UK. In other words, even if your UK company is a subsidiary or branch of an overseas company and your HR function is based outside the UK you must still appoint UK based personnel to fill the sponsor licence roles.

• Free from criminal convictions
The exact requirements are set out in Annex 1 of the UKVI Guidance for Tier 2 and 5 sponsors.
UKVI will check Authorising Officers, Key Contacts and Level 1 users for unspent criminal convictions at the time of your licence application, and can check at any point after that during the life of your licence.

• In most cases a paid member of staff or an office holder
Office holders include the Company Secretary, Directors and owners of the company.

Who can’t you appoint?

None of your Key Personnel can be:

• a representative who is not based in the UK;
• a contractor or consultant who is contracted for a specific project;
• subject to a Bankruptcy Restriction Order, or Undertaking;
• subject to a Debt Relief Restriction Order, or Undertaking;
• legally prohibited from being a company director.

UKVI may refuse an application where any of the ‘key personnel’ were involved with a sponsor institution whose licence has been revoked within the last 12 months.

COMPLIANCE ISSUES

Up-to-date contact details:

You must provide contact details for all Key Personnel at the time of your licence application and if any changes occur subsequently. The contact address given for each of your Key Personnel must be either:

– your main address
– a branch or head office included in your licence.
– your Representative’s business address

If your organisation moves location you must update the contact details for your Key Personnel, as well as updating the licence address itself.

Secure e-mail and passwords:

All email addresses you provide for Key Personnel must be secure, personal to and only accessible by the named individual. The log-in details sent to each of your Level 1 Users are also specific for each individual and must not be used by others, or even accessible to them. UKVI may suspend a licence where they identify a breach of either of these rules and we are increasingly hearing of cases where this has happened.

Assigning a CoS

Your Level 1 or Level 2 users must not assign a Certificate of Sponsorship to themselves or assign a CoS to a close relative or partner (including husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried partner, parent, child or sibling.)

Non-settled workers

You must have a minimum of one Level 1 user who is a settled worker. The only exceptions
to this rule are if your Authorising Officer has valid leave as a:

• Representative of an Overseas Business
• Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) migrant
Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrant

At DavidsonMorris we have the experience to advise you on a successful Sponsor Licence applications and the expertise of acting as a representative and managing your Licence to ensure compliance with UK immigration law at all times.

If you would like to discuss further, contact us on 020 7494 0118 or at info@www.davidsonmorris.com.