Sponsor Licence Renewal
Are you complying with your licence duties? Through the sponsor licence renewal process, your organisation will be subject to
Home Office scrutiny.
Safeguard your permission to sponsor migrant workers.
Sponsor licence renewal
Sponsorship licences are granted for four-year periods. To maintain your licence beyond this period, you must make a sponsor licence renewal application to the Home Office.
A refused licence renewal can bring serious consequences for businesses, removing the organisation’s permission to employ sponsored workers.
It has become increasingly clear that renewals attract greater Home Office attention and scrutiny than the initial licence application.
Immigration enforcement officials take this opportunity to fully investigate an organisation’s immigration compliance processes, procedures and documentation and to verify the lawful status of the organisation’s migrant workers.
UKVI advises that renewal applications can be submitted at least three months prior to the current licence expiry date. But given what is at stake, we advise starting to prepare for the renewal process well in advance, to identify and deal with any issues and ensure continued coverage and validity of the licence.
We can help
DavidsonMorris’ team of specialist UK immigration lawyers provide clients with a complete employer sponsorship licence renewal application service.
We bring substantial experience both as lawyers and former Home Office personnel, supporting your organisation in taking a proactive approach to the renewal process. We understand the importance of the licence to business operations and the commercial imperative to avoid issues with the Home Office.
We can work in support of your in-house HR team or manage the entire process on your behalf to ensure that licence management to date has been compliant and that the application for renewal is accurate, timely and effective.
As part of the sponsor licence renewal process, the UKVI reserves a right to undertake compliance visit to sponsor companies and request corporate documentation as deemed necessary. We will support with renewal preparation to ensure the organisation is match-fit for a site visit.
We can assist with:
- Auditing your HR systems, procedures and records including certificates of sponsorship and your SMS, to identify areas of risk and non-compliance
- Making recommendations to meet sponsor licence duties
- Implementing necessary changes to your sponsor licence before an extension application is submitted
Guidance on notification, monitoring and record-keeping duties
- Deliver training for in-house teams including SMS key personnel
- Preparation for site visits
- Follow up support following site visits
- Ongoing immigration and sponsor licence compliance advice
Our team of UK immigration specialists is well versed in all the document and evidentiary requirements that can be vital to a prompt and successful renewal application.
We also have specialist expertise in complex renewal applications, for example where the employer has received a civil penalty for illegal working, where the expiry date is imminent or where the sponsor licence has expired but the sponsor wishes to retain their licence.
In such cases we can advise on the options open to you, including any remedial measures that should be taken, how best to approach dealings with the Home Office and the information and evidence that will be required, and whether a new licence application may be necessary in the circumstances.
Preparing for your sponsor licence renewal
Sponsor licence holders are in most cases able to submit their renewal application up to three months in advance of the expiry date, which you can find on the organisation’s Sponsor Management System (SMS) summary page.
From experience, we advise diarising to look at the renewal six months before the expiry date. This will give you time to carry out a full audit and identify areas of risk and potential non-compliance to be rectified before making your submission and opening the organisation up to Home Office scrutiny.
Being prepared and submitting your application as soon as the window opens also means that if there are any issues, delays or even a refusal, there is likely to be time to address the problems before the licence expires. This avoids any ramifications on your PBS visa workers’ permission to work, as their certificate of sponsorship will be cancelled automatically should the licence expire.
Sponsor licence renewal process
To make the renewal application, a nominated Level 1 User will need to log onto the SMS and pay the appropriate application fee. Importantly, you should ensure you pay the correct fee. The rate differs by the size of organisation and you should check your classification as at the date of renewal application as this may have changed in the four years since making the previous licence application.
The Level 1 user will also need to complete a sponsor declaration.
Once the renewal application is received the Home Office will start the process of verifying that the organisation continues to meet the licence requirements, ie that is still operates legally in the UK, is still suitable to be a licensed sponsor and is able to meet its duties to the required standards. UKVI will cross-reference the information provided with data held by the Home Office and other bodies such as Companies House.
In some cases, the Home Office may send a request to the sponsor for further information or documents. You will need to act quickly and respond to the request within five days or it is likely the renewal will be refused.
In addition, as part of the renewal application process, all certificates of sponsorship assigned by the organisation under the licence will be reviewed, as well as the organisation’s continued need for a sponsor licence.
Some employers may qualify for the ‘streamlined’ sponsor licence renewal procedure. Under this process, if the organisation has previously been successful with at least two sponsor licence renewal applications, the Home Office caseworker is permitted to conduct fewer checks before making a decision to grant the renewal application.
Compliance inspections & licence renewals
Compliance visits remain a common feature of the renewal process. Where an organisation has not previously been subject to an onsite inspection, particularly during the initial licence application, it is advisable to prepare for an inspection at the renewal stage.
During the inspection, Home Office officials have powers to examine the organisation’s HR and recruitment policies, procedures and documentation to verify compliance with licence duties.
They can also interview migrant workers to cross-reference information on the certificate of sponsorship relating for example to salary, working hours, working locations and duties.
Compliance concerns or breaches identified during the inspection can give grounds for the renewal application to be refused.
How to avoid a refused sponsor licence renewal
As licence renewals are rarely straightforward, sponsors should ensure they take proactive steps to avoid common grounds for refused renewals.
These include failure to retain and keep the required documentation on sponsored workers, failure to have advised UKVI of significant changes to company structure and personnel, failure to respond to UKVI’s enquiries in a timely manner, failure to have passed the genuineness test, failure to comply with UKVI security standards and failing to pass a UKVI compliance audit and site visit.
Given what is at stake in maintaining your ability to employ skilled non-UK resident workers, approaching your renewal will take time and effort to get the application right. For help and advice with your sponsor licence renewal, please contact us.