Sponsors have to meet their sponsor licence compliance duties to avoid Home Office enforcement action. We can help you manage your licence, prepare for a compliance visit and avoid penalties.
UK immigration rules place high demands on sponsor licence holders to meet their ongoing compliance duties.
For already-stretched HR teams, sponsor licence compliance is resource-intensive and can fall down the priority list against demands offering more strategic value to the organisation.
But this is an area of immigration compliance which organisations can and do very easily get wrong and the Home Office is becoming increasingly vigilant in targeting and penalising employers for breaches.
Home Office compliance visits are common and if the sponsor fails to comply with or to meet the required Home Office standards will result in penalties, including fines, licence downgrading and increasingly, licence suspensions and revocations.
Reputation issues ensue. The damage to business operations of restricted or withdrawn access to the global labour market is huge – and to be avoided.
Licence holders should also be aware that at the licence renewal stage, the Home Office will examine HR processes and records in detail to ascertain compliance over the course of the licence validity and whether the organisation can maintain compliance into the next licence period.
One of the most common areas of immigration compliance risk for sponsor licence holders relates to record-keeping, and checking and retaining specific documentation for specific periods, in particular formats, and that these are to be made available to UKVI on request.
Part 1 of the Sponsor Licence Guidance Appendix D specifies the documents to be retained for every sponsored worker employed under Tier 2 (and Tier 5). They can be kept in either paper or electronic format and must be made available to UKVI on request.
All documents provided as part of your application to become a licensed sponsor must be kept for the duration of the period covered by your licence.
All documents relating to sponsored workers must be kept for the shorter period of either one year from the date you end your sponsorship of the migrant, or if the migrant is no longer sponsored by you, the point at which a compliance officer has examined and approved them.
Licensed sponsors must appoint individuals to the following roles:
• Authorising Officer
• Key Contact
• Level 1 user
The roles can be held by existing personnel, such as HR team members, and rules apply relating to appointing external agents. These roles have specific responsibilities, which the post holder must understand and adhere to.
Appointed personnel are to be named in the sponsor licence application and their details kept up to date on the SMS.
The Authorising Officer and at least one Level 1 user must be in place at all times. If one of the key personnel leaves the organisation and is not replaced in their licence role, UKVI has powers to take enforcement action such as downgrading the licence.
Your organisation will need to have HR systems and procedures in place to monitor all PBS workers and track and record their attendance, as well as ensuring they are complying with the terms and conditions of their visa.
Sponsors are under a duty to notify the Home Office of certain activities and changes in circumstances relating to their migrant workers and to the organisation itself. Strict timeframes also apply to report.
You must, for example, report regular non-attendance, non-compliance or disappearance of migrant workers. For organisational changes, you will need to update the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) with developments such as changes to contact details and if there has been a significant change such as a merger or acquisition.
Cooperating with the Home Office
Any requests from the Home Office, for documentation or for access to conduct a site inspection, must be complied with in full and in a timely manner. This also extends to acting honestly and with full disclosure in all dealings with the Home Office.
Right to Work
Sponsor licence holders remain subject to the same rules on the prevention of illegal working as all UK employers. Regular right to work checks should be performed for all prospective and existing employees to avoid civil penalties for illegal working. The documents that you retain must prove that the right checks on an employee’s immigration status have been made and continue to be made. This will be considered by UKVI to determine if your organisation is compliant with its record-keeping duties.
Checks on an employee’s immigration status should be made before employment commences. Importantly, this duty applies to all employees – including British and EEA citizens.
Thereafter, checks should be made on the right to work status of non-EEA employees with time-limited permission to work every 12 months from the date of hire.
DavidsonMorris’ business immigration specialists can support your organisation with all aspects of sponsor licence compliance and management.
As a team of immigration lawyers and former Home Office personnel, we can work in support of your in-house HR team or manage the compliance demands on your behalf, across all types of sponsorship licence.
Our licence compliance package is designed to provide support specifically tailored to your organisation and its needs.
In particular, we have substantial experience of working with multinational employers and organisations with UK operations on meeting their duties through effective and commercially-viable compliance solutions, and with smaller organisations without internal HR resource or capacity.
We also have specific expertise in more complex areas such as mergers, new branch openings and other organisational changes which will impact your licence and compliance responsibilities.
Contact us for specialist advice.