Having been granted a sponsorship licence by the Home Office to hire non-EEA workers in qualifying roles, you will be given access to the sponsor management system (SMS) and assume duties to use and update the system with required information within strict timeframes.
Below we guide you through the key functions of the SMS, including who should use it and for what purpose, as well as the consequences for your business of non-compliance.
What is the sponsor management system?
The sponsor management system is the Home Office’s online tool that is to be used to administer your day-to-day sponsorship activities, such as assigning certificates of sponsorship (CoS) to PBS (points-based system) visa applicants you are looking to employ.
As a licensed sponsor you have a number of strict duties so as to ensure compliance with the immigration rules and prevent abuse of the immigration rules.
These duties include monitoring and reporting certain activities about the migrant workers that you sponsor, such as non-attendance, non-compliance or disappearance. The SMS enables you for example to report to the Home Office any changes in a migrant’s circumstances.
The Home Office relies on the information in the SMS to ensure that you are meeting your compliance duties as a PBS licence holder, and as such, requires that the information is at any one time an up to date reflection of your business and your PBS employees.
Who uses the sponsor management system?
As a licensed sponsor you are required to allocate certain responsibilities to key personnel within your organisation, some or all of whom will have access to the sponsor management system once your licence has been granted.
There are 4 key personnel roles, namely:
- 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.
You must name your authorising officer, key contact and level 1 user on your licence application form. As a level 2 user can only be appointed by a level 1 user, you can only add a level 2 user after your licence has been granted.
There can only be one authorising officer and one key contact, but you can use the sponsor management system to request additional level 1 users, and add level 2 users, once you have been granted a licence.
You can appoint as many level 1 users as you think you will need based on the structure of your organisation and your business needs. However, as the authorising officer is responsible for the actions of all system users, it is advisable to keep the number of level 1 users to the minimum necessary for the effective maintenance of your sponsor licence.
You can appoint as many level 2 users as you need, 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, so 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 your licence application, or adding them as an additional level 1 or 2 user.
What is the sponsor management system used for?
The sponsor management system is designed to allow your level 1 and level 2 users, on your behalf, to perform various sponsorship activities online. The primary functions available on this online system include the following:
- Managing your 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).
What are consequences of non-compliance?
Although the authorising officer is responsible for the activities of all sponsor management system users, as a licensed sponsor you retain overall responsibility for ensuring compliance with your sponsorship duties.
As such, if either the authorising officer, or any system user, fails in their duties, you will be strictly accountable to the Home Office.
You should, therefore, always exercise a degree of caution and carry out any necessary background checks to ensure that the individuals who you chose to appoint as your key personnel are suitable to undertake those designated roles.
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.
Do you need help with the SMS or sponsor licence compliance?
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.