One of the main functions of UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) is to ensure that employers with sponsor licences continue to meet their sponsorship duties and obligations at all times. This compliance process ensures that employers keep the necessary records, only sponsor overseas workers when they should, and keep UKVI informed of important changes. If you are concerned that your sponsor licence may be suspended, downgraded, or revoked, it is imperative that you understand why, what each means for your ability to sponsor overseas workers, and what to do to resolve the matter.
What Does The Suspension Of A Sponsor Licence Mean?
Sponsor licence suspension is the step before possible revocation and may occur if UKVI has concerns about your ability to fulfil your sponsorship responsibilities. Such concerns can arise from a routine onsite visit by a UKVI compliance officer or a complaint made to UKVI. If UKVI is considering suspending your licence, they will first write to you explaining their reasons. You will then have just 20 days to reply, explaining and providing evidence why your licence should not be suspended. During this time, you will not be able to issue any new Certificates of Sponsorship, but your existing sponsored workers can continue to work legally. It is imperative that you cooperate with the UKVI during this time and respond within the deadlines provided. Ignoring a notification letter from UKVI or not providing the information required may further jeopardise your sponsor licence.
Depending on their assessment of your response, UKVI may:
- re-instate your A-rating
- give you a B-rating and issue you with an action plan
- revoke your licence
The UKVI may decide to downgrade your sponsor licence from an A-rating to a B-rating if they have minor concerns about your compliance; for example, if an employer issues a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to a candidate without the necessary qualifications for the role. They will also offer you an action plan (for a fee of £1,476) outlining precisely what needs to be done to resolve the matter. As long as you complete the tasks to the satisfaction of the UKVI within 3 months, your A-rating should be restored.
As UVKI explains, “You’ll be upgraded to an A-rating if you complete all the steps and there’s nothing else you need to improve. You’ll lose your licence if you do not complete all the steps. If you need to make other improvements, you’ll be given another B-rating and will have to follow a new action plan. You’ll have to pay the fee again”.
What Happens When A Sponsor Licence Is Revoked?
If your sponsor licence is revoked, this means it has been cancelled. Sponsor licences are only normally revoked if the Home Office have serious concerns about your sponsorship compliance and you have not been able to resolve the matter to their satisfaction. You will no longer be able to issue CoSs, and any existing workers sponsored using the licence (across all affected visa categories) will have their visa curtailed (i.e. given 60 days to leave the UK). The Home Office also have a ‘cooling-off rule meaning you will not be able to apply for a new sponsor licence for at least 12 months.
Given the importance of sponsor licences for employers of all types and sizes across the UK, no turn should be left unturned when it comes to ensuring your ongoing compliance. Unfortunately, even the smallest oversight can lead to the temporary or permanent loss of a sponsor licence. Sponsor licence suspension and revocation can be avoided entirely by putting in place robust and effective sponsorship management processes, systems, and training. In addition, periodic mock UKVI compliance audits carried out by external specialists in immigration law can play a key role in spotting any signs of weaknesses and resolving them before they pose a risk to your business.
Garth Coates is a leading niche immigration firm based in the heart of London, specialising in all forms of personal and business immigration, including visas, global mobility, sponsorship and compliance, settlement, and citizenship. To discuss your sponsor licence, please contact one of our friendly and approachable immigration Solicitors on Tel: +44 (0)20 7799 1600 or by completing our online contact form.