As a licensed sponsor you are subject to a number of strict duties to ensure compliance with the UK Immigration Rules and to prevent illegal working.
These duties include monitoring and reporting certain activities about sponsored workers and assigning certificates of sponsorship (CoS) to skilled visa workers.
The Sponsor Management System (SMS) is the Home Office’s online tool used by sponsors to meet their compliance responsibilities and administer their day-to-day licence management activities. Applications for the skilled worker sponsor licence are also made via the SMS.
The Home Office relies on the information in the SMS to ensure that you are meeting your compliance duties as a skilled worker licence holder, and as such, requires that the information is at any one time an up to date reflection of your business and your sponsored employees.
Who can use the sponsor management system?
Licensed sponsors are required to allocate certain responsibilities to key personnel within their organisation, some or all of whom will have access to the sponsor management system.
There are four key personnel roles:
- Authorising officer – this is the person responsible for the recruitment of migrant workers and ensuring that all of your sponsorship duties are met.
- Key contact – this is the person who acts as the main contact with the Home Office.
- Level 1 user – this is the person who will carry out your day-to-day sponsorship activities using the sponsor management system.
- Level 2 user – this is the person who will carry out certain activities on the sponsor management system but who has fewer permissions than the level 1 user.
Those appointed as key personnel must meet specific suitability requirements.
The authorising officer, key contact and level 1 user are to be named on the sponsor licence application form.
There can only be one authorising officer and one key contact, but once the licence has been granted, additional level 1 users can be requested via the SMS, and level 2 users added.
Sponsors can appoint as many level 1 users as they require, based on the structure of the organisation and its needs. However, it is advisable to keep the number of level 1 users to a manageable number to ensure accountability and consistency in administering the licence. It is also advisable that all level 1 users are adequately trained on their duties and using the SMS.
Likewise, there is no limit to level 2 users, although level 2 users have a restricted range of permissions when using the sponsor management system.
Only level 1 and level 2 users will have access to the system. If the authorising officer or key contact require access, they must be set up as a level 1 or 2 user. As key personnel roles can be filled by the same person or combination of different people, this can be done by naming either one of them as the level 1 user on the licence application, or adding them as an additional level 1 or 2 user.
How is the sponsor management system used?
The sponsor management system is designed to allow level 1 and level 2 users, on the organisation’s behalf, to perform various sponsorship activities online. The primary functions available on this online system include the following:
- Managing key personnel and licence details – the level 1 user can access all applicable functions on the sponsor management system and perform a wide range of actions including requesting additional level 1 users, or adding or removing level 2 users.
- Creating, assigning and withdrawing CoS/CAS – these are not paper certificates, but virtual documents, like a database record. Each migrant will need to be assigned a CoS/CAS via your sponsor management system account. Both level 1 and level 2 users can assign these virtual documents.
- Applying for an increase in the number of CoS/CAS you can assign – if your licence application is approved, the Home Office will set a limit on the number of CoS/CAS you can assign annually. However, your level 1 user can request an increase using the sponsor management system.
- Tracking licence renewal applications – the status of your licence can affect your access to the sponsor management system. If your licence has expired or been revoked you will no longer be able to log in. Your level 1 user will be responsible for renewing your sponsor licence and tracking the progress of any such application.
- View the Home Office message board – only the level 1 user will be able to access key messages posted by the Home Office, targeted by tier and category. The sponsor management system will also notify the level 1 user of important events during the lifespan of your licence including, for example, when your sponsor licence is due to expire.
- Reporting activities relating to your sponsored workers and/or students – both level 1 and level 2 workers can report migrant activity to the Home Office, for example, where a worker fails to turn up for work or a student completes their studies early. However, a level 2 user can only do so on CoS/CAS that they have personally created and assigned.
- Pay for and track the progress of action plans – in the event that you fail to comply with your sponsorship duties, the Home Office may decide to downgrade your sponsor licence rating from an A to a B. The level 1 user will need to pay for and monitor the progress of any time-limited action plan to correct any breach(es).
Failure to use the sponsor management system
Although the authorising officer is responsible for the activities of all sponsor management system users, the organisation retains overall responsibility for ensuring compliance with its sponsorship duties.
In the event that you fail to comply with your sponsorship duties, you are at risk of action being taken against you by the Home Office. There are various measures that may be taken, including but not limited to downgrading your sponsor licence rating.
Where there has been a significant or systematic failing, and you pose a serious threat to immigration control, you are at risk of your licence being suspended or revoked. Where migrants are found to be working illegally, you may also be at risk of a civil penalty, or even criminal prosecution.
Full guidance on the sponsor management system can be found in the various manuals published by UK Visas and Immigration. The information can be challenging to navigate, given the volume of material and the frequent changes to rules. Taking professional advice can ensure you are working to the most up to date guidance and rules to ensure compliance with your licence duties.
DavidsonMorris are specialists in UK business immigration and talent mobility. We work closely with HR and company owners to support with sponsor licence compliance, including use on the sponsor management system.
Failure to comply with your duties under a PBS licence leaves you at risk of Home Office penalties, such as suspension or even revocation of your licence.
We also deliver training on how to use the SMS for effective and compliant HR.
For guidance on use of the sponsor management system, or a wider immigration compliance issue, or if you are interested in SMS training, contact us.
What is the Home Office SMS?
The Sponsorship Management System is the online tool used by licensed sponsors to manage their licence and meet their duties to notify the Home Office of changes in circumstances.
How do you renew a sponsor licence?
Sponsors apply to renew their licence through the SMS. The sponsor must ensure their licence is up to date and then pay the renewal fee. The Home Office will then review the application.
Last updated: 30 October 2020