Sponsor Licence: Dealing with Changes to Organisation Structure
Applying for and then acquiring a sponsor licence to allow the hiring of staff from outside of the UK is only the very start of the sponsorship journey. As experienced sponsors will tell you, remaining compliant with your duties and responsibilities is a constant and ongoing task, requiring robust HR processes and systems. By applying for a sponsor licence, businesses are bound by a list of duties defined by the Home Office, designed to protect the integrity of the sponsorship system. One such duty is that any significant change to the sponsoring business must be reported to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) within a set period of time. Failure to do so may be seen as a breach of the conditions of sponsorship, resulting in the downgrading or revocation of the licence. In this article, we will explain how sponsor licence holders in the UK need to report key changes relating to their organisation to UK Visas and Immigration.
Which Business Changes Must Be Reported To UKVI?
Key changes to your business must be reported to UKVI via the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) within a set timescale, as follows:
Business Changes You Must Report Within Ten Working Days
The sponsor licence compliance rules state that businesses must advise UKVI if the size of their organisation size or charitable status changes. This is required because the rate of the Immigration Skills Charge (ISC), which is payable to the Home Office via the SMS each time a Certificate of Sponsorship is granted, depends on a) the size of the company and b) whether the sponsor is a registered charity. Your business will be classified as a small business if it has:
- A turnover of no more than £10.2 million
- A balance sheet total of no more than £5.1 million
- No more than 50 employees
If your business is currently registered as a small business and now exceeds the financial/employment threshold above, you will need to report to UKVI that it has become a medium/large business (or vice versa). This also applies if you have gained or lost its charitable status.
Business Changes You Must Report Within Twenty Working Days
The majority of business changes only have to be reported to UKVI within 20 days. The sponsorship guidance states, “If there are any significant changes to your own organisation, you must report these within 20 working days of the change”. UKVI provides a number of examples of the types of business changes that must be reported in the timeframe, including:
- change in your company’s name or the name of any of your branches
- if you sell all or part of your business
- where your business is involved in a merger or is taken over
- if you stop trading or go into an insolvency procedure
- if the nature of your business substantially changes
- if you are convicted of a relevant offence
Reporting Business Changes To UKVI
Business changes are reported to UKVI using the online SMS portal. Level 1 users are required to use the ‘request changes and sponsor details’ to make certain business changes, including reporting on:
- a replacement to an authorising officer or key contact
- amending your current authorising officer’s or key contact’s details
- amend your organisation’s business details, such as its name, address, contact details, or head office details
- Informing UKVI about changes to the organisation’s structure, such as the addition of branches or sites, or new linked entities
- Reporting changes in the status of any registration by a governing body that you need to hold
- Advise of mergers, takeovers or similar change
- Advise of a relevant offence
Some changes will be automatically updated on the SMS once they have been reported and hence, do not need to be considered by a UKVI case officer. These include a new main or head office address or a change to the address of your authorising officer, key contact, or level 1 user (these must match the main/head office address). Other changes are not automatically updated on the SMS and have to be assessed by a case officer before being approved.
When reporting changes, the key point to bear in mind is that the UKVI case officer will be looking for the implications of the change you are making, and hence whether you are still eligible for your sponsor licence or whether a new licence is now needed. For example, if you have changed your business name, but nothing else has changed, this is likely to be approved. If, on the other hand, you have changed business name following a buyout or merger, then the new owning business will need to apply for a sponsor licence.
How Long Do Business Changes Take To Process?
Requests for business changes via the SMS can take up to 18 weeks to be processed by UKVI. That said, what matters is that you have reported any changes you are legally required to within the timescale set. There is a priority service which will ensure changes are made within five working days, however, there is an additional charge of £200. It is advisable to use the priority service for significant changes to your organisational structure, such as in the event of a merger or takeover.
Sponsors need to remember that failing to inform UKVI of any of the above changes within the ten or 20-day timescale may be seen as a breach of the sponsor licence conditions. For this reason, it is imperative that Level 1 SMS users be informed as soon as possible of any substantial business changes, allowing them to lodge the change in time. Putting in place an efficient and robust reporting system and structure will ensure this happens consistently. And if you need any guidance on whether a recent change to your business should be reported, speak to Immigration Solicitors
who will be able to advise you.