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What Is The Difference Between A Tier 2 A-Rated And A B-Rated Sponsor

For most, if not all, businesses sponsoring staff from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA), their Tier 2 sponsor license is not just important, it is essential. This is because, without the ability to hire skilled members of staff from overseas, they may face a shortfall in the personnel needed to effectively run their operation. Just think about the UK's National Health Service (NHS) for example; where would they be without skilled doctors and nurses from around the world. Out of every 1,000 NHS staff, 862 are British, 55 come from the European Union, 52 are from countries in Asia, 22 originate from an African nation, and nine come from another country. Given that there are in the region of 1.28 million staff, and 170,000 of these are non-British, it is easy to see this country's reliance on staff from other countries. This is why sponsoring employers are keen to ensure that they keep their A-rating. In this article, we will explain the difference between a Tier 2 sponsor license A-rating and a B-rating, and how this can impact on employers in the UK.

How Does The Sponsor License Rating System Work?

An employer's sponsor licence (the license that allows them to sponsor non-EEA workers) can be rated either 'A' or 'B'. On initial application, if an employer is approved to receive a sponsor license, they will always be given an A-rating, acknowledging that they have the systems and processes in place to allow them to meet their sponsor duties. The rating is listed on the official register of licensed sponsors.

Ratings may be €˜downgraded' to a B-rating as a result of non-compliance with the sponsor license duties. These include:

  • Adhering to the requirements of the specific sponsorship license type held by the employer
  • Keeping accurate records of sponsored employees - this includes keeping up to date personal details such as residential addresses and phone numbers, and copies of migrant employee's passports, biometric residence permits, and resident labour market tests (RLMTs) (note RLMTs are only required if the role is not on the shortage occupation list). In order to remain compliant, employers must update their Sponsorship Management System (SMS) in a timely manner.
  • Reporting any significant occurrences - such as if a sponsored migrant does not turn up for their first day of work, if a sponsored migrant's contract of employment or services, or registration with a relevant body is terminated early, or if the employer no longer sponsors the migrant.

The Home Office carries out announced and unannounced audits to ensure that sponsoring businesses are sticking to the rules. In some cases, they will respond to specific complaints raised. If during an audit, the Home Office find evidence that an employer is unable or unwilling to continue to meet their sponsor duties, or if they find evidence of abuse of the immigration system (e.g. where a vacancy is not genuine), they may revoke (i.e. cancel), suspend, or downgrade the license.

Where a decision is made to downgrade rather than revoke or suspend a license, they will downgrade it to a B-rating. License ratings are typically kept the same for all the tiers, categories, and subcategories in which an employer is registered. In some cases, the Home Office may downgrade one tier to a B-rating.

The Home Office guidance states that a license will be downgraded if:

  • You have certified that a migrant will not claim state benefits and that migrant then does claim benefits with your knowledge.
  • As a result of information available to their compliance officers, the Home Office is not satisfied that you are using a process or procedure necessary to fully comply with your sponsor duties.
  • If the Home Office has asked you to send them any document or information and you do not send the document or information within the given time limit.

The Home Office may downgrade your license if:

  • You sponsor more than 20 migrants in Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) Graduate Trainee category with start dates in the same financial year.
  • You fail to provide any document listed in Appendix D of the guidance for sponsors when requested within the specified time limit.
  • You fail to comply with any of your sponsor duties

What Is The Impact Of Holding A B-Rating?

If you hold an A-rating, as is publicly shown on the register of sponsoring employers, you will not be restricted from sponsoring staff in accordance with the terms of your license. If you have B-rating however, you will not be able to issue any new Certificates of Sponsor (CoS) and hence you will be unable to hire new non-EEA staff.

When you are downgraded, you will be given an €˜action plan' by a Home Office compliance Officer detailing the action you need to take within three months. As such, you cannot remain on a B-rating indefinitely, it is a €˜transitional rating' either back to an A-rating, or to possible revocation. As the Home Office guidance explains, if you are awarded a B-rating, you must adhere to an action plan which will set out the steps you must take to return to an A-rating. For example, this might include making improvements to your record-keeping, improving your control over staff who assign certificates of sponsorship (CoS), or improving communication between your different branches, so you know when a migrant has not turned up for work.

Wrapping Up

Being downgraded to a B-rating needn't be damaging to your business as long as you take the actions requested by the Home Office as soon as possible. It is always advisable if you are downgraded to enlist the services of immigration Solicitors who can help you with the changes you need to make and ensure that any corrective action made will satisfy the Home Office, and allow you to recover your A-rating as soon as possible.

Related article

How Much does it Cost to Apply for Sponsor Licence?

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