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Sponsor Licence duties and Compliance for UK Employers

All employers with a sponsor licence are required to adhere to a strict set of sponsor duties and compliance requirements. These duties and compliance requirements, which include monitoring, record-keeping, and reporting, have been put in place by the Home Office to prevent any abuse of the UK’s immigration laws and sponsorship arrangements.

If you are a sponsor licence holder, it is essential that you understand your sponsorship duties and obligations because non-compliance can result in your sponsor licence being downgraded, suspended, or even revoked (cancelled). If this happens, you may lose your right to employing foreign workers, and any existing sponsored workers may be required to leave the country at short notice.

It is also important to note that the sponsor licence duties apply equally to long-term (e.g. skilled worker visa) and short-term temporary worker visa (e.g. seasonal worker visa) sponsors.

Sponsor Licence duties and Compliance requirements

As a UK employer with a sponsor licence, you must comply with:

  • your reporting duties
  • your record-keeping duties
  • UK immigration law and wider UK law, and
  • the requirement to act for the public good

Reporting duties

As a sponsor licence holder, you must report certain events to the Home Office via your SMS system within the required timescale. Here are some of the key sponsor licence reporting duties.

You must report within 10 working days if:

  • a sponsored worker does not start work
  • a sponsored worker is absent for more than 10 days without permission
  • a sponsored worker has their employment ended before the date on their Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)
  • you stop sponsoring a worker

You must report within 20 working days if:

  • you change your company’s name or the name of any of your branches
  • you sell all or part of your business
  • your business is involved in a merger or is taken over
  • you stop trading or go into an insolvency procedure
  • you substantially change the nature of your business

A full list of the sponsor reporting duties can be found on the Home Office website1.

Record-keeping duties

As a sponsor licence holder, you will need to request and retain copies of certain documents for each sponsored worker for the required amount of time. Documents must be kept in relation to:

  • each sponsored worker: including a copy of their passport and visa, biometric residence permit, current and past contact details, DBS check (if required), and absences
  • the salary of sponsored workers: including copies of your worker’s payslips, with their NI number, tax code, any allowances paid, and deductions made. A copy of each employment contract should also be kept on record showing:
    • names and signatures
    • start and end dates of the employment
    • job title
    • details of the job
    • the hours of work, and the
    • salary to be paid
  • the skill level of sponsored workers: including copies of registration and qualifications.

The Home Office provides a full list of these documents on its website (Appendix D record keeping)2.

You must also ensure that you keep details of your key personnel, including your Authorising Officer, Level 1 and 2 users, and Key Contact, up to date at all times using the SMS system.

Complying with UK immigration laws and wider UK laws

As a sponsor licence holder, it is your legal responsibility to comply with all immigration laws and wider UK laws. In terms of immigration law, you must make sure that you:

  • only ever employ workers with the required qualifications, registration, or experience to perform the role
  • only employ workers with the necessary immigration permission
  • stop employing workers who are no longer entitled to do the job (e.g. if their registration expires)
  • never assign a CoS if there is no genuine vacancy or role
  • only allow sponsored workers to perform the roles permitted by the conditions of their stay

More broadly, sponsor licence holders must also adhere to all UK laws, including employment law relating to minimum wages, working time, holidays, and health and safety. You must also have planning permission, local planning authority consent or any other permission needed to carry out business at your trading address.

Not engaging in behaviour or actions that are not conducive to the public good

As a sponsor licence holder, you must never engage in activities that are not conducive to the public good. Actions or behaviour that may be considered against the public good include:

  • the fostering of hatred or inter-community division
  • fomenting, justifying or glorifying terrorism
  • rejecting the rights of, or discriminating against, other groups or individuals on the basis of their protected characteristics.

Consequences of not fulfilling sponsor licence Duties

The Home Office will carry out periodic announced or unannounced compliance visits to ensure that you are meeting your sponsor licence compliance requirements at all times. If a UKVI compliance officer has concerns that you are not meeting your duties and obligations, they may decide to:

Downgrade your licence to a B-rating

This is reserved for minor breaches of the rules and means that you will not be able to sponsor any new overseas workers until you resolve any problems identified to the satisfaction of the Home Office. You will be given an action plan (you must pay a fee for this) which will explain the actions you need to take to regain your A-rating.

Suspend your licence

If the Home Office have serious concerns about your compliance, they may suspend your licence while they carry out further checks. You will not be able to issue any CoS while your licence is suspended. Following further investigation, the Home Office may reinstate your licence or revoke your licence.

Revoke your licence

This means that your licence will be cancelled. This is typically reserved for situations whereby sponsor licence holders no longer have a trading presence or due to serious breaches of their duties and obligations. If your sponsor licence is revoked, you will need to wait for a further 12 months before you can apply for a new sponsorship licence (this is known as a ‘cooling-off’ period).


References

1 GOV.UK: List of sponsor reporting duties

2 GOV.UK: Record keeping for Sponsorship

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