Five things you should be doing to make sure your Sponsor Licence keeps its A-rating

6 February 2019

When a sponsor licence application is approved, the UKVI awards the employer an A-rating.

Once in possession of the licence, there are certain requirements that all UK sponsors are required to adhere to. These include record keeping and reporting, complying with the law, prevention of illegal working and migrant tracking and monitoring. If they do not carry out these responsibilities, sponsors risk having their licence suspended, downgraded, revoked or even surrendered. The UKVI may also reduce the number of Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) available to a sponsor, including reducing that number to zero, thereby making it more difficult (or impossible) for a sponsor to recruit non-EU nationals.

If you are a UK employer in possession of an A-rated sponsor licence, here are our five top tips to ensure that you keep your A-rating.

1. Keep on top of reporting requirements
Sponsors are subject to continuous requirements to self-police their licences by monitoring the immigration status of their employees and reporting any changes. This includes reporting changes to the circumstances of sponsored workers: if, for example, a sponsored employee is made redundant, they change work address or have a change in salary, those changes must be reported to UKVI within 10 working days.

2. Make sure record keeping processes are fit for purpose
Sponsor licence holders must have the right HR systems in place to allow them to:
  • monitor their employees’ immigration status;
  • keep copies of relevant documents for each employee (including passport and right to work information);
  • track and record employees’ attendance;
  • keep employee contact details up to date; and
  • report to UKVI if there is a problem.

All documents should be kept in hard copy or electronic format. They should be capable of being produced on request and kept for whichever is the shorter period of one year from the date on which the employer’s sponsorship of the migrant ends or, if the migrant is no longer sponsored, the point at which a compliance officer has examined and approved the documents.

3. Monitor Certificates of Sponsorship
Annual allocations of unrestricted certificates of sponsorship expire at the end of each financial year. Organisations must request new certificates every year if they would like to continue sponsoring migrant workers or extending the sponsored visas of existing employees. Allocations can be renewed from 5 January and business justifications must be provided for any requests.

Additional requests for unrestricted certificates can be submitted throughout the year too using the Sponsor Management System (SMS).

4. Be aware of structural changes within your organisations
Sponsors are required to notify UKVI of changes to structure, key personnel or business premises. There are also specific reporting requirements triggered if the business is part of a merger, takeover or de-merger and there are strict deadlines for notifying UKVI.

5. Mock Audits
UKVI are increasingly undertaking audits which are more forensic in nature. Audits can be announced or unannounced and HR/Global Mobility teams and migrants will be interviewed as standard. UKVI penalties, risk of having the licence downgraded or suffering reputational damage are real and should be avoided at all costs. We recommend sponsors undertake at least one mock audit annually to ensure that they are prepared for any UKVI visit in advance.

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