Sponsor Licence: A Guide
to Sponsor Duties

As the clock ticks down towards 1 January 2021 when the UK will end free movement and implement its new points-based immigration system, many UK businesses are preparing themselves to hire overseas talent by becoming an approved sponsor.

A sponsor licence is a permission given by the Home Office for an organisation to hire, or ‘sponsor’, non-resident workers within its business. Organisations that do not currently hold a licence, but are likely to hire skilled EU or non-EU migrant workers from 1 January 2021, are strongly advised to apply now.

Once a UK employer has successfully secured their sponsor licence, they will be able to make individual applications to recruit migrant workers on a case by case basis. However, the Home Office places strict requirements on sponsors, known as ‘sponsor duties’, which employers must observe throughout the lifetime of their sponsor licence. Failure to comply with your sponsor duties could result in your licence being downgraded, suspended or revoked.

Record keeping duties

Good record keeping is a key requirement for all businesses employing skilled migrant staff. You must retain certain records and documents on your business premises and be prepared to present these to the Home Office upon request.

The records sponsors are required to keep include:

  • A photocopy or electronic copy of each sponsored migrant’s passport or travel document and biometric residence permit, if issued, which show their entitlement to work in the UK and their period of leave.
  • Up to date contact details for each sponsored migrant. This should include their UK residential address, telephone number and mobile telephone number.
  • Comprehensive employment records for each sponsored worker, including copies of their payslips, signed employment contract and a detailed job description. Records of any absences should also be kept.
  • Copies of any qualification certificates or professional accreditation documents held by the migrant worker that prove they have the relevant skills for the job.

All documents provided as part of your application to become a licenced sponsor should also be kept for the duration of your licence. Further details on record keeping requirements can be found in Appendix D of the guidance for sponsors.

Reporting duties

All licenced sponsors have a duty to report any significant changes to their business, or their migrant workers’ circumstances, to the Home Office. The key personnel assigned to manage your sponsor licence are responsible for reporting these changes using the sponsorship management system (SMS).

Any occurrence of the following must be reported within ten working days:

  • If a sponsored migrant does not turn up for their first day of work, and the reason why.
  • If a sponsored migrant’s employment is terminated earlier than shown on their Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). If the migrant resigns or is dismissed, you should provide details of any new employers, if known.
  • If you stop sponsoring the migrant for any other reason, such as they have moved to another immigration route or they are absent from work without pay for 4 weeks or more, unless an exception applies.
  • If they are absent from work for more than ten working days without explanation.
  • If there are significant changes to a sponsored migrant’s circumstances such as a salary change, change in job title or core duties, or a new employment location.

Significant changes to the status of your business must also be reported, including:

  • If the size or charitable status of your business changes.
  • If your business is involved in a merger or acquisition or changes ownership.
  • If your business changes its name or address.
  • Any changes to the key personnel assigned to manage your sponsor licence.

Further details on reporting duties can be found in the Home Office guidance for sponsors document.

Compliance with immigration law

As a licenced sponsor, the Home Office will expect your organisation to play your part in ensuring the immigration system is not abused and to capture any behavior of sponsored migrants that may pose a concern under the Immigration Rules.

In order to comply with immigration laws, sponsors must:

  • Only employ migrants who are appropriately qualified, registered or experienced to do the job.
  • Not assign a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) where there is no genuine vacancy or the job description does not accurately reflect the role in question.
  • Only allow sponsored migrants to undertake the specific role set out in their CoS.
  • Only assign a CoS to migrants who meet the requirements of the tier or category and you believe will comply with the conditions of their leave.
  • Comply with UK employment law, including requirements for the National Minimum Wage and paid holiday entitlements.

How will the Home Office know if I am compliant?

When you apply for a sponsor licence, the Home Office may wish to visit your business premises before a decision is made on your application. This is to ensure that your organisation has the appropriate systems and processes in place to meet your sponsor duties and comply with your legal responsibilities as an employer.

However, even if compliance officers are satisfied with this initial check and your application is approved, checks may still be carried out at random, at any point during the lifetime of your sponsor licence. For this reason, Smith Stone Walters recommends all sponsors carry out regular mock audits to ensure they are prepared for a Home Office compliance visit.

Prepare for a Home Office compliance visit

If you need support with preparing for a Home Office compliance visit, or if you have any questions about your licence and sponsor duties, Smith Stone Walters is here to help.

Our team of experienced immigration advisors can help you with carrying out mock audits and identifying areas for improvement regarding the management of your sponsor licence.

For more information or a friendly discussion about your requirements, please call us on 0208 461 6660, or email info@smithstonewalters.com.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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