Sponsor Licence compliance
10 November 2020
UK employers or ‘sponsors’ form an integral part of the UK’s immigration system by supporting compliance with the Immigration Rules and therefore helping the Home Office to detect and prevent illegal working.
Becoming an approved sponsor will allow your business to hire global talent from anywhere in the world once the UK’s new points-based immigration system comes into effect.
However, the Home Office places strict eligibility criteria on those businesses applying for a sponsor licence, and employers must be able to demonstrate that they will be able to comply with their sponsor duties once the licence has been granted.
Before making a decision on your application, the Home Office must be confident that your organisation has the appropriate human resource and recruitment systems and processes in place to effectively monitor a migrant workforce.
In order to assess this, the Home Office may request further information or evidence from applicants to demonstrate they have thought about these key areas, and in some cases they may wish to visit your business premises to carry out a compliance audit. This is particularly relevant for start-ups and newly established businesses, which will often be subject to more stringent checks before a licence is granted. However, compliance checks can be carried out at any point during the lifetime of your sponsor licence, therefore it is good practice to regularly assess your internal systems and processes to ensure you are maintaining compliance.
With this in mind, Smith Stone Walters would encourage all potential and established sponsors to consider the following checklist on six key compliance areas for sponsors.
How will you conduct right to work checks?
All employers are required to carry out initial right to work checks on staff they intend to hire, to confirm the individual has the relevant permissions to work in the UK. You will need to demonstrate that you have the necessary internal systems and processes in place to carry out these checks.
You can check an individual’s right to work by:
- Checking the applicant’s original documents, or;
- Using the Home Office’s online checking service, if the employee has given you their share code
If a right to work check indicates that the employee’s permission to live and work in the UK is time limited, employers must recheck that individual’s right to work when this permission comes to an end. These follow up checks are designed to prevent people from working illegally or overstaying their visa.
Until 30 June 2021, employers will be able to continue using EEA and Swiss passports and national identity cards to conduct right to work checks for European employees. After this date, employers will need to use the Home Office’s online checking service to confirm that a European candidate holds settled or pre-settled status and therefore has the right to work in the UK.
Due to coronavirus, the Home Office has introduced temporary measures to allow employers to conduct right to work checks digitally via video calls, and scanned or photographs of documents rather than originals are currently being accepted.
How will you store employee information?
Sponsors are required to store certain information on their sponsored employees, and ensure this information is readily available to the Home Office upon request.
You should be able to demonstrate that you have the appropriate systems in place to store secure copies of your employees’ passports, Biometric Resience Permits (BRPs) and visas. All documents relating to your sponsored migrants must be kept throughout the sponsorship period and until:
- One year has passed from the date on which your sponsorship ended, or;
- The date on which a compliance officer has examined and approved them, if this is less than one year after you ended your sponsorship of the migrant
Any documentation provided as part of your sponsor licence application should also be kept for the duration of your licence. Documents can be stored as either paper copies or in electronic format, but you must ensure that you meet any other legal requirements for storing data.
How do you intend to monitor your migrant workforce?
In order to comply with your sponsor duties, you will need to have the appropriate systems in place to monitor the immigration status of each migrant you sponsor, and show that your internal processes minimise the risk of employing a migrant who does not have the right to work in the UK.
To demonstrate this, you will need to show that you have a system in place to monitor the expiry dates of your sponsored employees’ visas, and hold up to date contact details for your employees. You should also have processes in place to periodically check that the contact details you hold for your employees are correct and up to date.
How will you ensure accurate record keeping?
A key part of your sponsor duties is the ability to maintain accurate records on all of your sponsored workers.
You should be able to demonstrate that you keep comprehensive personnel files for each employee, containing documents relating to migrant recruitment, payroll information and a record of absences. Historical data such as previous contact details for your employees should also be kept for the required time period.
What reporting procedures will you have in place?
Licenced sponsors are required to report any significant changes to their business or their sponsored migrants’ circumstances to the Home Office within ten working days.
You will need to inform the Home Office if:
- Your sponsored employee does not turn up for their first day of work, and the reason
- Your sponsored migrant’s employment is terminated earlier than shown on their Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)
- You stop sponsoring the migrant for any other reason
- Your sponsored employee is absent from work for more than ten working days without explanation
- Your sponsored employee’s circumstances change, such as a change in salary or job title, a change in core duties or a new employment location
Sponsors will be able to report these changes using the online Sponsorship Management System (SMS).
Does your business comply with UK employment law?
Part of your duties as a licenced sponsor relate to complying with all aspects of UK employment law. You will need to demonstrate that your sponsored migrants will be working under acceptable conditions and will receive all employment benefits that they are entitled to, such as holiday and sick pay. Any other employment conditions such as accommodation and allowances should also be disclosed.
Get support with sponsor licence compliance
To give your business the best chance of passing a Home Office compliance visit, Smith Stone Walters recommends all sponsors carry out regular mock audits to ensure they are prepared.
Even if your business has held a sponsor licence for some time, checks can happen at any time therefore it is good practice to regularly assess your internal systems and processes to ensure ongoing compliance.
Our team of immigration experts regularly help businesses with carrying out mock audits to identify areas for improvement regarding the management of your sponsor licence. For more information about this service, or for an informal discussion about your requirements, please call us on 0208 461 6660, or email email@example.com.