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Sponsor Licence Key Personnel Duties

One of the requirements on sponsor licence holders is that they appoint key personnel to be responsibile for certain duties related to managing the organisation’s licence.

Key personnel must be appointed into the following roles when making an application for a sponsor licence:

  • Authorising Officer
  • Key Contact
  • Level 1 User


Once the sponsor licence has been granted, the organisation may then nominate individuals as Level 2 Users.

Failure to comply with licence management duties can result in Home Office enforcement action, such as difficulties with licence renewals, or even downgrading, suspension or revocation of the licence.

With so much at stake, it is important that appointed key personnel understand and meet their duties. But what exactly is involved with each of the roles? What are the duties of each key personnel and who can be appointed?


Authorising officer

When applying for a sponsor 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 revoked.

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.

The requirement was therefore amended so that for new licence applicants their Authorising Officer had 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.


Authorising officer’s role

The Authorising Officer will often 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).

However, they don’t themselves 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.


Key contact

Your Key Contact is, as the name implies, the UKVI’s other main point of contact for the sponsor licence. UKVI 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.


Level 1 users

Your Level 1 users will be the people who are doing your day-to-day immigration work.

They have full access to the Sponsorship Management System (SMS), which means they can :

  • Undertake routine sponsorship activities, including assigning Certificates of Sponsorship, reporting migrant activity and changes of circumstance, request CoS, apply for and assign restricted CoS and apply to renew your licence.
  • View information about your licence, notify UKVI of changes to your organisation.
  • Apply to renew your licence and track the progress of your application.


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 licence 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.


Level 2 users

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

They can only assign CoS and report migrant activity.

They cannot:

  • Access your general licence information
  • Report any changes to the organisation


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


Eligibility requirements for all key personnel

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 someone based in the UK.

Free from criminal convictions

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.

The Home Office will refuse your application for a sponsor licence if checks that they undertake reveal that your Key Personnel, including your Authorising Officer, Key Contact and Level 1 Users, have unspent criminal convictions for offences under or relating to:

  • The Immigration Act 1971
  • The Immigration Act 1988
  • The Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993
  • The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002
  • The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006
  • The UK Borders Act 2007
  • Trafficking for sexual exploitation
  • Any other offence listed in Appendix B
  • Any offences of espionage/terrorism
  • Dishonesty (theft, corruption, deception and fraud)
  • Bribery
  • Proceeds of crime
  • Money laundering
  • Abuse and neglect of children (applies only for Tier 5 (Creative and Sporting)


The checks for criminal convictions may be repeated at any time during the life of the licence as well and when new individuals take up any of the Key Personnel roles.

The licence will also be refused if the Key Personnel has been issued with a civil penalty.  Your licence will also be revoked if a Key Personnel is convicted of a relevant offence above.

In most cases a paid member of staff or an office holder

With some exceptions (detailed below) all key personnel must be paid employees or office holders of the company. Office holders include the Company Secretary, Directors and owners of the company.


If you contract out some or all of your HR functions to another company or organisation you can appoint an employee of that organisation as a Level 1 or Level 2 user on your licence. You must still have at least one Level 1 user who is an employee or office holder of the licence-holding company.

A UK-based legal representative can fill any key personnel role except the role of Authorising Officer.


Who cannot be appointed as key personnel?

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


Note also that 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 with key personnel rules

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.

All email addresses you provide for key personnel must be secure, personal to and only accessible by the named individual.

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:


Assigning a CoS

SMS users must not assign a Certificate of Sponsorship to themselves or assign a CoS to a close relative or partner including a:

  • Husband
  • Wife
  • Civil partner
  • Unmarried partner
  • Same sex partner
  • Mother or step-mother
  • Father or step-father
  • Son or step-son
  • Daughter or step-daughter
  • Brother or half-brother
  • Sister or half-sister


Need assistance?

At DavidsonMorris, our business immigration specialist are recognised leaders in sponsor licence applications and licence compliance. For help and advice with any aspect of your licence or meeting the compliance duties as key personnel, contact us.


Key personnel FAQs

Who can be an Authorising officer?

What is a Level 1 user?

The Level 1 user is responsible for the day-to-day management of your sponsor licence using the Sponsor Management System.

Last updated: 27 February 2021

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