Congratulations. You have received confirmation that your application for a Tier 2 or 5 Sponsor Licence has been approved by the Home Office. You have your Certificates of Sponsorship and feel a sigh of relief that you can now recruit the talent you need to meet growth targets.
Following the release of the British government’s White Paper on post-Brexit immigration, more employers will need to obtain a licence to hire non-UK employees after the Brexit transition period ends, and there is no more freedom of movement. Whether you are considering applying for a Sponsor Licence in anticipation of the UK leaving the single market, or you are in the process of sponsoring your first non-EEA employee, you need to understand the compliance requirements associated with a licence. The record-keeping and reporting obligations are onerous, and failure to comply could lead to serious financial penalties and reputational damage.
The basics of Sponsor Licence compliance
The overall objective of Sponsor Licence compliance is to ensure:
- Except where jobs appear on the Shortage Occupation List, preference is given to UK settled persons when employers are filling vacancies,
- Only those with a legal right to work in the UK are employed,
- Address weaknesses in the UK immigration system, and
- Monitor patterns and behaviour of migrant workers which may highlight cause for concern.
Sponsor Licence holders must always comply with the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) department of the Home Office and be prepared for unannounced compliance visits.
Examples of Record-keeping duties
Your HR department must keep records of every sponsored worker, either electronically or in hard copy, which contains the following documents or information (this list is not exhaustive):
- A copy of the sponsored employee’s passport which shows the required biometric details, leave stamps or visa
- A copy of the sponsored worker’s Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)
- A copy of the migrant’s national insurance number
- An up-to-date history of every sponsored employees’ contact details
- A record of any absences from work
- Evidence of the Resident Labour Market Test (unless the position was exempt from requiring a test to be carried out)
- The sponsored employee’s qualifications
- Copies of all payslips showing the name, NI number, tax code, any allowances paid, and deductions made
- The employment contract
- A detailed job description
Certain events relating to a sponsored employee will require UKVI to be informed. In some cases, such happenings must be reported within 10 days. These include:
- The sponsored worker is absent for more than 10 working days without permission
- The employee’s circumstances have changed, for example, they have had a promotion, a change of duties, or a change in salary
- The employee fails to show up for their first day of work
If there are changes within the organisation itself, for example, the business is sold, becomes insolvent, or opens an overseas office, the Home Office must be notified within 20 working days.
Employers must also ensure they comply with all other UK laws, including immigration rules such as Right to Work checks. If the business deals with food preparation, it must be registered with the relevant food authority. Another example is that all employment laws must be complied with, including providing a Statement of Particulars and managing holiday pay and other statutory allowances correctly.
What can go wrong?
Despite what certain sections of the media may try and claim, there are very few Sponsor Licence holders who intentionally fail to meet compliance, or worse, deliberately flout immigration laws. Instead, compliance fails because those appointed as Key Personnel leave and are not replaced, those responsible for managing Sponsor Licence duties and responsibilities do not fully understand what is required, or everyone in the organisation is simply too busy to keep on top of the matter.
One solution to this dilemma is to outsource the administration of the Sponsor Licence Management system to a third party who is experienced in immigration law. They are not only well-informed of any changes in immigration law (which are sometimes brought in without any warning or notice), but they have the time and understanding to make sure all the record-keeping and reporting duties are complied with.
Another way to assist with remaining compliant is to have an immigration solicitor visit your organisation to perform a mock audit once or twice a year. This will ensure that any weaknesses in your HR systems are picked up and any compliance failures are quickly rectified.
Complying with Sponsor Licence duties and responsibilities is not complicated, but it is time-consuming, both in performance and keeping up to date with any changes. Seeking professional advice is the key to ensuring you’re always one step ahead of the Home Office and maintain your A-rating.