Virginia, US
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| Naomi Goldshtein

Where Did the Last Four Years Go? Renewing Your Sponsor Licence

This November marks eight years since the introduction of the Points Based System and the second renewal cycle for those who obtained their sponsor licence at the outset. Due to the large numbers of renewals expected to be filed within the next six months, the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI )contacted a number of sponsors in July inviting them to submit their sponsor licence renewal from 31st July 2016. With filings well underway, sponsors should be aware that on many occasions post licence audits have been prompted by the filing of a sponsor licence renewal. As tempting as it may be, sponsors should think twice before rushing into the renewal process if they are not confident in their in-house immigration compliance processes as the UKVI can (and often do) undertake on-site audits with minimal or no notice.

If patterns of non-compliance are identified during a post licence audit, a sponsor licence could be downgraded, suspended or revoked. In the event of downgrading or suspension, a sponsor is prevented from issuing any Certificates of Sponsorship until their status as an A rated sponsor has been reinstated. In the event of revocation, a sponsor will be removed from the UKVI register of sponsors resulting in their sponsored migrant population having their visas curtailed.  

Sponsors wanting to avoid this outcome are obligated to take on and maintain certain duties. The main objective being to prevent immigration abuse by ensuring patterns of behaviour are detected and tackled early and possible weaknesses in processes, which can lead to these patterns, are addressed promptly. The actual duties themselves relate to record keeping and reporting as well as compliance with the law in relation to the prevention of illegal working.

Five key areas of compliance

More specifically, sponsors must ensure they are compliant in the following five key areas:

  • Monitoring immigration status and preventing illegal employment;
  • Maintaining migrant contact details;
  • Record keeping and recruitment practices;
  • Migrant tracking and monitoring; and
  • Other general reporting duties.
Although many sponsors will not have been through a UKVI audit during the four-year validity of their licence, it is imperative that they continue to uphold their compliance obligations if they wish to compliantly facilitate sponsorship in the UK. Post licence UKVI audits have become more forensic in nature over the last four years and sponsor licence holders do not always succeed in upholding the standards necessary to maintain their licence.
I often help clients with their compliance practices by undertaking mock audits and the most common areas of weakness I come across are inadequate right to work check processes, failure to report significant changes in migrant circumstances and little documentation maintained on file to evidence the Resident Labour Market Test having been completed in accordance with UKVI requirements. Although the UKVI is unlikely to undertake action for one late SMS update, action will be taken if there is evidence of any systemic failings. The loss of a Sponsor licence can be damaging in itself; however there can also be civil and criminal penalties in the event of illegal working, plus significant reputational damage if the media become aware.
Should you wish to discuss your sponsor compliance obligations, Fragomen have a dedicated Compliance Team who are able to assist with all aspects of maintaining a sponsor licence and the renewal process.
For further information, please contact