Sponsor Licence Change of Circumstances: An Overview
Holding a sponsor licence is essential if a UK employer is looking to employ overseas nationals who are subject to immigration controls.
Furthermore, they must comply with their sponsor licence-reporting duties to retain their licence and to successfully renew it upon expiry.
Cases that must be submitted in a report include changes in sponsored workers’ circumstances and significant changes in the business.
This is necessary for reasons which include preventing illegal working, keeping workers’ details updated, and monitoring employees’ immigration status.
While some changes are automatically updated on the SMS, other reported changes may take up to 18 weeks to be processed, especially if the UK Home Office requires further information.
Some changes, such as appointing a new level 1 user, require that the sponsor licence holder fills out a ‘change of circumstances’ form instead of reporting via the SMS.
Non-compliance by employers can have an adverse effect on their sponsor licence. These effects vary and can be as fair as a sponsor licence downgrade to stiffer penalties such as a suspension or revocation of the sponsor licence.
Business or Organisational Changes
The following are organisational changes that need to be reported via the Sponsor Management System (SMS):
- A change in the nature of the business.
- Sale of some or all of the business.
- A merger or complete takeover of the business.
- Liquidation or suspension of trading activities.
- A change of address or name of the business.
- A change of the key personnel named on the sponsor licence.
- A significant change in the business’ size or structure.
- A change in business type or sector such as if a company previously held charitable status and no longer does or if the business was previously a large company but is now a small company.
- Surrender of sponsor licence.
- A conviction of the sponsor licence holder of a relevant criminal offence such as fraud or money laundering.
Changes in a Sponsored Worker’s Circumstances
The UK Home Office must be notified by the organisation if sponsored employees:
- Leave their place of work for reasons such as resignation, dismissal, or UK licence registration required for work expires.
- Are no longer sponsored. This may happen if they have switched to an immigration route that does not require sponsorship.
- Are absent from work without permission for more than 10 consecutive days.
- Receive a change of pay, a promotion, or a change in their core duties.
- Do not show up on their first day of work, including whatever reason they gave for non-attendance.
- Appear to have breached the conditions of their leave.
- Are absent from work without pay for 4 weeks for exceptions that are not permitted in the sponsor guidance.
Change of Circumstances Form
Usually, employers can enter most business-related changes on the SMS except where a level 1 user is not available for some reason and certain changes of circumstances occur that warrant a report.
These changes include:
- Assigning a new level 1 user.
- Replacing the key contact or authorising officer.
- Appointing a representative as the level 1 user.
- Surrendering your licence.
Priority Change of Circumstances Service
This service allows sponsors to prioritise certain requests each day, by submitting an application via email. While the service does not guarantee the approval of users’ requests, they can use it for cases which include the following:
- Allocation of additional Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS).
- Allocation of annual CoS.
- Addition of a new level 1 user.
- Change of level 1 user.
- Replacement of the authorising officer.
- Amendment of the authorising officer.
- Replacement of the key contact.
- Amendment of the key contact.
- Addition of a representative.
- Amendment of the organisation’s details such as relocation.
Sponsorship Management Roles
The roles involved in the management of the SMS are:
- Authorising officer – A senior and competent person responsible for the actions of staff and representatives who use the SMS.
- Key contact – This is the main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
- Level 1 user – Responsible for all day-to-day management of your licence using the SMS.
Steps to apply for a Sponsor Licence
In applying for a sponsor licence, the prospective sponsor must:
- Ensure that the business is eligible.
- Confirm that available jobs are suitable for sponsorship.
- Decide the type of licence they want to apply for.
- Appoint those who will manage their SMS account.
- Gather the necessary documents and apply online.
It usually takes eight weeks to get a response. Alternatively, applicants can get priority service for £500, reducing the response time to 10 working days.
If the application is successful, the employer would be able to fulfil his/her sponsor licence obligations through the SMS.
With the SMS, the sponsor licence holder can request and assign certificates of sponsorship to migrant workers within and outside the UK, report changes regarding sponsored employees and the business, and perform other related functions.
Why You must inform the Home Office Of Any Change of Circumstances
There are compliance requirements that must be fulfilled throughout the validity period of the sponsor licence. These include reporting changes in any sponsored worker’s circumstances.
Significant trust is placed in sponsors and they must ensure they comply with immigration law and wider UK law, and not behave in a manner that is not conducive to the wider public good.
The reasons to inform the Home Office include the following:
- Effective management recruitment processes and record-keeping.
- Monitoring of immigration status and preventing illegal working.
- Management of the contact details of sponsored employees.
- Prevention of the abuse of immigration laws and sponsorship arrangements.
- Early capture of any patterns of behaviour that may cause concern.
- Addressing possible weaknesses in the process which can cause those patterns.
- Monitoring compliance with the Immigration Rules, all parts of the Worker and Temporary Worker sponsor guidance, and wider UK law (such as employment law)
- Ensuring sponsors do not behave in a way that is detrimental to the wider public good.
The Home Office has a duty to ensure all sponsors fulfil their responsibilities, and that a sponsor’s actions (or omissions) do not create a risk to immigration controls.
Therefore, compliance checks are carried out by the Home Office to ensure that employers are complying with their sponsor duties. Actions are taken against those who:
- Pose, or may pose, a threat to immigration control.
- Fail to comply with the Immigration Rules or Worker and Temporary Worker sponsor guidance.
- Are convicted of criminal offences or issued with certain civil penalties (such as those for employing illegal workers).
- Have engaged or are engaging in behaviour or actions that are not conducive to the public good.
Actions the Home Office may take against employers who fail in fulfilling their compliance requirements include:
- Reducing their CoS allocation.
- Downgrading their licence to a B-rating.
- Suspending their licence.
- Revoking their licence.
- Cancelling the permission of their sponsored workers to remain in the UK.
- Reporting them to the police or other relevant authorities if a criminal or civil offence is believed to have taken place.
How can IAS Help
As a sponsor licence holder, you must ensure that certain changes in circumstances relating to your business and sponsored employees are reported to the UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) through the SMS or, in certain cases, the change of circumstances form.
Fulfilling your obligation to the Home Office, as an employer of overseas workers, by reporting at an early stage is critical to keeping or renewing your sponsor licence, or avoiding a sponsor licence downgrade.
For many reasons, some of which include late or incomplete reports, the Home Office may carry out an unannounced compliance review to check if your processes and Human Resources (HR) systems are effective.
If you have received a notification of a pending compliance review, you should review your processes to ensure you are ready. Alternatively, you could engage the services of experienced immigration experts who can help you make the necessary adjustments.
At the Immigration Advice Service (IAS), we will help you prepare adequately for UKVI visits by carrying out a thorough review of your processes and advising on significant changes.
For prospective sponsors, we will guide you through submitting the initial application for a sponsor licence with the right supporting documentation. We also advise and guide you on the steps to take if your sponsor licence has been downgraded, suspended, or revoked.
Contact us today on 0333 305 9375 or chat with us online to access an immigration expert who will work with you to ensure you adequately report all necessary sponsor licence change of circumstances and achieve lasting solutions to your sponsor licence concerns.
Last modified on September 7th, 2023 at 1:08 pm
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Level 2 users can only report worker activities for CoS that they personally created and assigned. They can also report activities for CoS that have been transferred to them.
Otherwise, it is the duty of level 1 SMS users to report migrant activities.
There are no rights to appeal in the event of a revocation. You would be able to apply for a new sponsor licence only after the cooling period of 12 months. If you apply before, it will be refused.
In the meantime, you should consider the reasons why your licence was revoked in the first instance and correct them all. If possible, you should employ an immigration professional to help you.
A compliance check on your business by UKVI may include some or any of the following:
- Asking you for additional documents or information and verifying them.
- Visiting you on-site.
- Carrying out a digital compliance inspection which involves interviewing you via remote video conferencing facilities.
- Checking with other government departments, agencies or local authorities.
- Considering any other information or evidence that comes to light – for example, while considering applications from your sponsored workers or through allegations from members of the public.