How to maintain an A rating
Employers must obtain a sponsor licence in order to employ non-EEA nationals in the UK. The process for obtaining a sponsor licence is a lengthy process which requires the employer to satisfy a set of stringent requirements. Employers who are granted a sponsor licence have a great deal of responsibility, not only toward the sponsored migrant but also toward UKVI. Consequently, UKVI assesses sponsor licence applications with increased scrutiny and due diligence.
When an application is approved, UKVI awards the employer with an A rated sponsor licence. It should be noted that an A rating is always awarded when an application is initially approved as it would have been approved on the basis that the employer has implemented the required systems and that the requirements for a sponsor licence were met.
There are certain duties that all UK sponsors are required to adhere to. The sponsor duties and responsibilities must be complied with in order to maintain an A rated sponsor licence.
What are the duties of a licensed sponsor in the UK?
There are a set of general duties that apply to all sponsors in the UK however, some duties differ depending on which visa category the sponsored migrant falls under and the nature of the role. According to the Home Office guidance policy, the objectives of these duties imposed on sponsors in the UK are to:
- prevent abuse of assessment procedures;
- capture early on any patterns of migrant behaviour that many cause concern;
- address possible weaknesses in process which can cause those patterns; and
- monitor compliance with Immigration Rules
The duties of a sponsor commence on the same day that the sponsor licence is granted. Similarly, the duties of a sponsor toward a non-EEA national migrant commences once a Certificate of Sponsorship is assigned to that individual; the sponsor will be bound by these responsibilities toward each migrant until the sponsor informs UKVI that the migrant:
- is no longer sponsored by the company; or
- has departed the UK and no longer has valid leave to remain in the UK; or
- has been granted further leave with a different sponsor; or
- has been granted leave under a different visa which does not require a sponsor
One of the main sponsor duties relates to record keeping and the storage of documents. To fulfil this duty, a sponsor must keep a photocopy or an electronic copy of each migrant’s national passport and biometric residence permit. The sponsor must also keep updated contact details for each sponsored migrant, including a current home address and telephone number. In order to show evidence of a National Insurance number, the sponsor must have a copy of an official document confirming the migrant’s National Insurance number; this can include and is not limited to, a copy of the migrant’s P45 or a copy of their National Insurance card. This also forms part of the sponsor’s responsibility to undertake the right to work checks correctly and competently.
The sponsor must also record all of the migrant’s absences which can be recorded manually or electronically as long as the information recorded is clear and precise.
Sponsors are advised to securely store all of the information required above in order to comply with data protection laws. Additionally, a sponsor must have ease of access to the information as the UKVI expects the sponsor to be able to provide the information upon request. It is important to note that UKVI may also request information relating to how the organisation is managed and led. For example, UKVI may request information and further clarification on the recruitment process in order to ensure that the residence labour market was undertaken in accordance with UKVI standards.
A further duty imposed upon sponsors in the UK relates to reporting certain information to UKVI by utilising the sponsor management system (SMS). The SMS is set up by UKVI once a sponsor licence has been granted and allows sponsors to carry out daily activities and more importantly, this is the system which allows sponsors to assign Certificates of Sponsorship to migrants. The sponsor must appoint key users who will have access to the system, no other employees must have access to the system or the information contained within the system.
If you are currently in the process of applying for a sponsor licence and require clarification on the key users you must appoint, please contact us today and we will guide you through the process.
Using the SMS, sponsors must inform UKVI within 10 working days if a sponsored migrant does not attend their first day of work; even if the migrant has a reason for not attending, the sponsor must inform UKVI along with the sponsored migrant’s reason for failing to attend work along with the migrant’s contact details. The same provision applies to migrants who have failed to attend work for 10 consecutive days.
In addition to the above, the sponsor must also inform UKVI of any change in the sponsored migrant’s circumstances. This may include a promotion, dismissal, or reduction and increase in salary which must all be reported within 10 working days. If the change in circumstances relates to the sponsor, where the business ceases trading, the nature of the business is changed significantly or if a merge is taking place, the sponsor must report the change via the SMS within 20 working days.
The sponsor’s duties are not only limited to reporting and record keeping duties as sponsors are also required to ensure that a sponsored migrant is qualified to undertake the chosen role and that the migrant only undertakes tasks specified in the Certificate of Sponsorship.
The duties outlined above only provides a brief overview of the duties imposed by UKVI and as such if you require a detailed breakdown of all the duties that a UK sponsor must fulfil, please contact us and a member of our immigration team can discuss this with you further.
How will UKVI ensure that a sponsor has fulfilled their sponsor duties?
UKVI can visit sponsors without sufficient notice as it is common for UKVI to carry out random checks. The purpose of these visits is to ensure that the sponsor is continuing to comply with their duties. UKVI will also check the accuracy of all information provided to them through the SMS as well as speaking to sponsored migrants.
If UKVI decide during a visit that the sponsor has not been fulfilling their sponsor duties, UKVI has the power to downgrade the licence to a B rating however, this is very much dependant on the seriousness of the breach. In cases where a licence is downgraded to a B rating, the sponsor will not be permitted to assign any new Certificates of Sponsorship until an A rated licence is reinstated. In order to upgrade, UKVI will provide a sponsor with an action plan for a fee of £1,476 which must be settled within 10 working days from the date that the sponsor is notified of the downgrade. If this sum is not settled within the imposed deadline, the sponsor’s licence will be revoked.
If you are a sponsor in the UK requiring further clarification on your duties or if your licence has been downgraded, please contact us and one of our expert immigration solicitors can advise you further in detail.