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Sponsor Duties and Compliance

UK employers who recruit overseas workers through a Sponsor Licence are required to know their legal duties and responsibilities when it comes to immigration law, to ensure that they are following the correct codes of practice set out by the Home Office.

If you have a Sponsor License, or you are applying for a Sponsor License, and wish to learn more about your legal responsibilities as an employer, contact our dedicated in-house team of legal advisors at IAS on 0333 305 9375 for sponsor guidance. We offer expert advice on visa sponsorship requirements and how to conduct a mock audit.

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    Benefits of Choosing IAS for Your Sponsor Licence Needs

    Our dedicated UK corporate immigration lawyers deliver our services through a comprehensive and personalised approach suited to fit each business client that we work with.

    We can assist you in getting a UK Sponsor Licence, generating a certificate of sponsorship, and applying for a work visa for your employee. Whether this is your first application, your initial application was refused, or you were found to not be compliant in the past, we can help.

    With a successful track record, IAS eases the process for you so you can focus on other parts of your business. Here are more things you enjoy by working with us:

    Our lawyers will assess your Sponsor Licence case 1-1 to understand its unique aspects.

    We provide customised guidance for Sponsor Licence applications to increase chances of approval.

    We assist with maintaining compliance with the UK government’s rules for employing overseas workers.

    Our team offers detailed assistance in making any critical changes to the sponsor management system.

    Regardless of what your business immigration query might be, IAS is here to help and support you. Call us or enquire online to learn more about how we can help you.

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    What are the Sponsor Duties?

    Throughout your sponsorship licence, you will have special duties to follow to prevent illegal working in the UK and to ensure that the workers that you employ can obtain a Skilled Worker Visa.

    Duties start from the date your licence is issued until you relinquish it, and your responsibility to each sponsored employee begins when you assign the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). These include pre-employment, during employment and post-employment responsibilities.

    • Ensuring overseas workers have the skills and qualifications to perform their jobs, that they qualify for sponsorship, and there is a genuine vacancy in the sponsoring organisation
    • Conducting right-to-work checks on workers
    • Record-keeping duties of certain documents proving the employee’s right to work
    • Monitoring overseas workers to ensure compliance with immigration responsibilities
    • Informing the Home Office if visa sponsorship duties are breached
    • Reporting to the Home Office if a sponsored worker’s employment contract or any professional registration is terminated earlier than displayed on their CoS.

    Failure to comply can result in the Home Office taking action such as downgrading your Sponsor Licence from an A-rating to a B-rating for minor breaches, suspension, or revocation of your sponsored workers’ visas, for a serious breach. In some cases, non-compliance will be reported to the police or relevant authorities.

    The Importance of Sponsor Duties and Compliance


    All EU citizens (except Irish nationals) arriving in the UK must be sponsored by their employers, and are required to apply for the relevant work visa.

    Businesses and Sponsor Licence holders must have an efficient system in place to carry out their sponsor duties effectively, and to ensure that their organisation is operating lawfully, in order to avoid revocation of their licence, a civil penalty, reputation damage, and even criminal charges.

    Sponsor licence duties can be divided into the following main categories:

    Record Keeping

    Employers with Sponsor Licences must maintain up-to-date and accurate records of all overseas workers. All records must be thorough and readily available for inspection in the case of Home Office visits. Records must include sponsored workers’ ID documentation, valid passports, immigration files, employee payslips, history of absences, and staff handbooks.


    It is important to keep track of sponsored workers’ immigration status and attendance, to ensure that migrant workers employed by your organisation are adhering to the terms of their work visa and wider UK law.

    Monitoring activities include conducting follow-up and documented right-to-work checks to avoid criminal charges for illegal working, ensuring workers’ contact details are up-to-date, and taking note of poor compliance.


    Sponsor reporting duties include reporting any significant changes regarding an organisation and its sponsored workers to the Home Office through the SMS. Events must be reported within 10 or 20 days of the event taking place, depending on the Sponsor License change of circumstances, and the licence holder must confirm that it is taking responsibility for each sponsored worker.

    Significant changes of circumstances within a sponsor organisation that must be reported include:

    • Changes to the organisation’s name or company address
    • Change of Authorising Officer and key personnel
    • If a sponsored worker does not start their role on the date they were assigned for any reason (such as a missed flight)
    • There has been a merger, acquisition or change of business ownership
    • Change of location of the employment
    • If you stop sponsoring a worker for any reason, or their employment ends before the date on their CoS
    • When a sponsored worker fails to report for work or is absent from work for more than 10 consecutive days
    • If the sponsored worker no longer works for your organisation
    • Any substantial changes to the nature of your business

    Immigration Compliance

    Sponsor licence holders must ensure they only hire foreign workers who meet all requirements of the Worker and Temporary Worker Sponsor Guidance and UK immigration laws. Sponsored workers must be fully qualified and experienced to do their job, as well as be able to provide professional accreditations before they apply for a Skilled Worker Visa and begin work as a sponsored employee.

    Compliance with UK Laws

    All Sponsor Licence holders are required to comply with wider UK law generally, including immigration law and employment law. This means that all UK employers must meet the National Minimum Wage requirements and must provide paid holiday entitlement. Minimum pay can be no less than £10.10 per hour or £20,960 per annum.

    Acting in Public Good

    All sponsor licence holders have a duty to conduct business in a way that is in line with the Home Office’s core values and public good. Organisations must ensure that they avoid codes of practice that are not beneficial to and harmful to society.

    If the Home Office has any cause for concern regarding Sponsor Licence holders and their duties, it has the authority to visit the sponsor organisation’s premises unannounced at any time for a full compliance inspection visit.

    To ensure compliance with your sponsorship license duties in the UK, reach out to our team of immigration experts today.

    How to Comply with Your Sponsor Duties


    It is important to have processes and procedures in place to ensure that any employer complies with the duties of being a Sponsor Licence holder.

    Take Note of When Sponsorship Duties Begin and End

    The day the CoS is assigned is when your Sponsor Licence duties responsibilities will begin. Your Sponsor Licence duties end when you surrender your licence, or if your licence has been revoked or suspended.

    When you assign a CoS, the sponsored worker must apply for their visa within a 3-month period. Any changes to a migrant worker’s start or end date prior to applying for the visa must be reported via SMS.

    Have a Robust Documentation System in Place

    It’s important to make sure that your business has an efficient system in place to help you keep up-to-date, such as monitoring sponsored employees for any changes to their circumstances, including absences.

    The Sponsor Licence holder must keep an organised file of sponsored employee contact details for every worker, which should include their UK residential address and personal contact details. Level 1 users need to be made aware of any significant organisational changes, and a sponsor management file should be kept that includes your Sponsor Licence application and any supporting documents.

    Be Prepared for a Compliance Visit from the Home Office

    The Home Office may want to check that the information you have provided for your Sponsor Licence is up-to-date and accurate and that you are complying with the requirements.

    compliance audit visit by the Home Office can take up to 2 to 3 hours, depending on the nature and size of your organisation, as well as the number of sponsored workers that you currently employ. There are also pre-licence assessment visits.

    To be prepared for such visits, the Authorising Officer and Level 1 user(s) should have an understanding of how to:

    • Log into the SMS and view a CoS
    • Run a report on foreign workers
    • Make SMS reports when required
    • Conduct a mock compliance audit

    Organisations are usually notified in advance about a compliance visit by the Home Office, and can organise a time that works for them; however, they could be given short notice or the Home Office can turn up unannounced. Typically, an email will be sent to the key contact or Authorising Officer notifying them about compliance audit visits.

    If you would like to know more about immigration compliance and reporting to the Home Office and would like to carry out internal audits of key sponsor licence personnel, contact our dedicated team of IAS legal advisors at 0333 305 9375, or get in touch online today.

    How Should Businesses Report Organisational Changes?

    Organisational changes regarding sponsored workers or the size of your business must be reported by a Level 1 user within 10 working days to the Home Office. All other organisational changes must be reported within 20 working days of the change, via SMS.

    Reports regarding changes of overseas workers must include the foreign workers’ contact details, such as their personal home address, telephone number and email.

    Failure to report significant changes to the Home Office can lead to a thorough review of the Sponsor’s compliance and may result in a downgrade in their Sponsor Licence rating where a 3–month action plan will be implemented. A subsequent Home Office visit may be arranged to assess whether the action plan is being adhered to.

    In some cases of non-compliance, a Sponsor Licence may be suspended or revoked. If revoked, all migrant workers employed by the organisation will have 60 days to leave the UK or switch to another visa.

    Complying with Immigration Rules & UK Law

    Sponsors are required to undertake many of the responsibilities of Immigration Officers, in compliance with the Migration Act 1958. If a Sponsor does not comply with immigration laws, the consequences can include criminal charges, costly fines, the Sponsor Licence being revoked, and reputational damage, which may impact the long-term success of a business.

    A sponsor can apply to renew their licence for up to 3 months before their current sponsor licence expires. In some circumstances, this can be extended.

    All key personnel must be permanently based in the UK and must not be contractors or consultants for a specific project. There are three key personnel with assigned Sponsor License responsibilities who will be named on the Sponsor Licence. These are the:

    • The Authorising Officer is a senior member of staff who takes overall responsibility for sponsorship. The Authorising Officer does not have automatic access to the SMS but is responsible for those who do have access. The role of the Authorising Officer should include monthly checks of the CoS assigned to all foreign workers.
    • The Key Contact is the sponsored licence holder’s main point of contact with the Home Office and is responsible for all correspondence regarding UK visas and immigration. Key contacts can be legal representatives.
    • Level 1 SMS User maintains up-to-date records of UK visas and immigration, noting any changes to licences and individual sponsorship They are responsible for reporting most changes and managing the service day-to-day.

    There must be at least one Level 1 User who is employed by the organisation and has complete access to the SMS unless the Sponsor Licence holder is surrendering their licence.

    Don’t risk violations. Consult with our legal experts for guidance on your Sponsorship License duties.

    How IAS Can Help?

    At IAS, we offer a thorough mock compliance visit audit service to help you as a Sponsor Licence holder be fully prepared for any visits from Home Office.  We also offer expert sponsor guidance on the immigration system, best practices for reporting migrant activity, and what to do if you get your licence revoked.

    Our experienced and helpful in-house legal team will guide you through all the fundamental steps you must take in order to ensure that your organisation is lawfully operating and that you, as a responsible employer, are fully compliant with your Sponsor Licence duties.

    Get in touch with our qualified team today and speak to one of our trusted in-house legal advisors who are here to assist and guide you on best practices for hiring overseas staff.

    If you have any questions regarding your Sponsor Licence holder duties and compliance with immigration rules as a UK employer, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us and get in touch with one of our dedicated team of legal advisors at IAS on 0333 305 9375.

    We offer immigration advice sessions as face to face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    The Home Office can only grant a UK visa Sponsor Licence to an organisation, and not an individual. The organisation must be a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK, and must be able to show the positions it is recruiting for, including evidence that the workers they are planning to sponsor meet the requirements.

    The organisation must also have taken the resident labour market test to determine whether the job position cannot be filled by a local or EEA national. Those with settled status or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, and those with Indefinite Leave to Remain status in the UK do not require sponsorship to work in the UK.


    Sponsoring overseas workers can be an effective way of filling skill gaps and growing your business and its brand visibility. Hiring overseas talent means that your business has full access to workers with expertise in specialised fields that settled workers may not have. This can help to boost an organisation’s reputation and improve its chances of long-term success.


    A Certificate of Sponsorship costs £199 for all businesses. There is a Sponsor Licence application fee of £536 for small or charitable sponsors and £1476 for medium or large sponsors. Sponsors will be charged an additional mandatory fee known as an Immigration Skills Charge, if the sponsored worker is coming from outside the UK for over 6 months.

    The Immigration Skills Charge is £364 for small or charitable sponsors and £1,000 for medium or large sponsors. For small or charitable sponsors, the cost to sponsor is £1,820 (5 x £364). For medium or large sponsors, the fee is £5,000 (5 x £1,000).

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