What is a sponsor licence?
A sponsor licence is a mandatory asset for any business or company who wants to hire foreign workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).
Countries in the EEA
Sponsor licences can be revoked for failing to follow the rules set out by the Home Office relating to being a UK sponsor to foreign workers. These rules are obligatory and include the following processes:
- Recording specific information about the migrant worker you are hiring. These are:
- any pages in their passport that identify them and their eligibility to work in the UK,
- a copy of the biometric residence permit,
- a copy of their National Insurance number unless they are exempt,
- a history of their contact details kept up-to-date,
- a copy of a letter from the worker’s parents if they are under age 18,
- a copy of the Disclosure and Barring Service check if required,
- a record of the worker’s absences,
- And if you are sponsoring workers through Tier 5 International Agreement, a copy of the contract awarded and either the tender document for that contract or evidence of how the contract was awarded.
- Providing this information to the Home Office on request
- Complying with the law and employing workers based on the right means
- Following all tier-specific rules set out by the Home Office
Checks may happen by in-person visit, telephone, or by post asking that additional documentation is sent to the Home Office. You will not get an indication of the assessment carried out by the compliance office, instead, this information will be reviewed with all other information you have provided and will be used to make a decision about your ability to hold a sponsorship licence and comply with sponsor-specific laws.
If the check has been conducted after their decision has been made, you will receive their opinion by mail
The Home Office may contact you for more information and may even arrive to your business’ premises to ensure that your business can be verified as meeting the requirements of being a sponsor and continues to do so after the decision has been made to give your business a sponsor licence. The person responsible for these checks is a Home Office compliance officer.
They may do the following during these checks:
- Review and verify any information you have given them
- Take photographs of the premises where you conduct business
- Speak to any migrant workers
- Speak to any other employee who is related to the hiring or operation of the business
Checks may happen by in-person visit, telephone, or by post asking that additional documentation be sent into the Home Office. You will not get an indication of the assessment carried out by the compliance office, instead, this information will be reviewed with all other information you have provided and will be used to make a decision about your ability to hold a sponsorship licence and comply with sponsor-specific laws.
If the check has been conducted after their decision has been made, you will receive their opinion by mail.
If the Home Office is under the impression that you or someone working on your behalf knowingly deceived them, they will evaluate the information given to them by you and by any source, they contacted during their check of your business’ premises and they may prosecute you.
Punishment for small transgressions is not severe and in most cases the Home Office will work with you to correct the issue.
In cases of more serious or intentional deception or breaches, your business’ sponsorship licence can be suspended or revoked. The following penalties may also be applied:
- The may revoke your sponsorship licence and require a period of 12 months before you can re-apply for a new one
- They may issue you a civil penalty of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker
- They may prosecute you for having in your possession an identity document (or a copy of it) that is false or improperly obtained and you may go to prison for up to 5 years and/or receive an unlimited fine
- They may prosecute you for knowingly employing an illegal migrant worker and you may go to prison for up to 2 years and/or receive an unlimited fine
- They may disqualify you from acting as a company director
- They may prosecute you for facilitation or trafficking and if convicted, you may go to prison for up to 14 years and/or receive an unlimited fine
Whatever sanction is applied, it will be recorded at the Home Office and could be used against you if you or your business intend to hire foreign workers in the future.
You will no longer be eligible to sponsor workers and you will also be ineligible for applying for a new sponsor licence for a one-year term after the date your sponsor licence was revoked. The only exception to this rule is if your licence was revoked by mistake, where it will be reinstated.
Any employees who were sponsored and are complicit in the reasons for the revocation, their term of stay in the UK will be cut. They will have to leave the UK immediately or face forced removal.
Any employees who were not complicit in the reasons for revocation will have their term in the UK cut to 60 days past the day the sponsor licence was revoked. In this time, the worker has the ability and right to apply for indefinite leave to remain. If they don’t do this, they face immediate removal at the end of this 60-day period.
Action will be taken against any worker who stays after their permission to stay has expired. This could mean they are forcibly removed and any application to come to the UK for the next 10 years be refused.
Applications made for sponsor licences after the cooling off period (usually one year) will be treated the same as any other application, however in your application, you should address any reason why your business’ previous sponsor licence was revoked.
There is no recourse you can take if your sponsor licence has been revoked unless it has been done so by mistake. Otherwise, you must wait for the one-year cool down period has passed to be eligible for a sponsor licence.
There is some action you can take if your sponsor licence will be or has already been downgraded. This includes implementing an action plan approved by UK Visas and Immigration and paying £1,476 and completing all the steps in the plan.
Immigration Advice Service (IAS) can help you at various points in the sponsor licence revocation process. This includes:
- Helping you acquire the sponsor licence legitimately so that the Home Office does not think you have deceived them
- Auditing your foreign worker hiring process to ensure that you are compliant with immigration laws
- Helping you implement changes to your processes in the case that the Home Office finds any discrepancies
- Liaising with the Home Office on your behalf so you have an experienced entity in direct communication with them
- Defending your case in a hearing/tribunal if the Home Office has found major discrepancies and has chosen to prosecute you
- Assisting you with acquiring a sponsor licence after the mandatory cool-down period is over (if you had your previous sponsor licence revoked)
- Helping you implement the UK Visas & Immigration improvement package
This specialist guidance is written and provided by Matthew Burandt.