New requirement for SMS
Level 1 users

The Home Office has recently updated its Sponsorship Management System (SMS) manual to include a new requirement for some key personnel named on sponsor licences.

On 19 June 2023 the National Insurance number (NINO) became mandatory for Level 1 users of the Sponsor Management System (SMS).

From this date onwards, key personnel on sponsor licences may be required to provide their NINO, or a reason why they are exempt from having a NINO, when amending their details in the SMS.

The updated manual sets out the following information for Level 1 users:

  • If you enter your NINO the update will happen immediately if there are no other changes that cannot be applied automatically.
  • If you indicate that you don’t have a NINO and provide exemption details, this will generate a request that will be subject to casework consideration prior to implementation. You may be asked to provide evidence of the reason for the NINO exemption as part of this consideration.
  • Failure to provide a valid reason for the NINO exemption may affect the outcome of your request.

What is a Level 1 user?

When you apply for a sponsor licence, you are required to nominate certain members of your organisaiton to take on set roles and responsibilities in relation to the ongoing management of your licence. These individuals are known as ‘key personnel’, and there are 4 roles:

  • Authorising Officer – This person takes on overall responsibility for your sponsor licence and is responsible for ensuring you meet your sponsor duties. They are also responsible for deciding how many of your staff need to have access to the SMS and what level of permission they can have. The Authorising Officer does not have automatic access to the SMS. If they require access to the system, they will need to be set up as a Level 1 or Level 2 User, as well as being an Authorising Officer.
  • Key Contact – This person acts as the main contact between the sponsor and the Home Office. The Key Contact does not have automatic access to the SMS and will need to be set up as a Level 1 user or a Level 2 user if they require access to the system.
  • Level 1 user – The Level 1 User is responsible for carrying out your day-to-day sponsorship activities using the SMS. When you first apply for a sponsor licence, you can only nominate one Level 1 User and they must be an employee, director or partner. Once you have a licence you can use the SMS to nominate more Level 1 Users.
  • Level 2 user – These users have fewer permissions than Level 1 Users. You can decide how many Level 2 Users you need.

Recent changes to SMS updates

The Home Office is constantly working to improve the sponsorship system and the SMS, to make the process more streamlined and easier for sponsors to understand and navigate.

In March this year, the Home Office introduced new functions to enable sponsors to keep their sponsor licence details as up to date as possible without having to wait for the Home Office to approve requests.

In addition to immediate fulfilment of requests to update the details of your Authorising Officer (AO), Key Contact (KC), Level 1 Users and organisation details, from 23 March 2023, requests that you submit from the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) to replace your AO, replace your KC and add new Level 1 Users will be fulfilled immediately, subject to certain criteria being met.

In addition, if you hold a licence for an eligible route, your annual allocation for Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) will automatically renew, again subject to certain criteria being met.

Sponsors are reminded to ensure they are logging into the SMS regularly to ensure your records are kept up to date and to check for any messages or updates from the Home Office. According to the guidance for sponsors, Level 1 users are advised to access their SMS account at least once a month.

Expert support with sponsorship and compliance

If you require support with the ongoing management of your sponsor licence, Smith Stone Walters can help. Our team of immigration experts can take on the day-to-day administration duties in relation to the sponsorship of migrant workers on your behalf, and ensure you remain compliant. To speak to a member of the team about your requirements, please contact us today.

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