In this article, we explain the duties and responsibilities of a Sponsor Licence holder. It is imperative that licence holders understand sponsor duties and responsibilities because if compliance is not met, the Home Office can suspend or even revoke your Sponsor Licence. Not only can this lead you to losing talented employees, but those employees may also be forced to leave the UK if they cannot obtain a position with another licensed employer.
There is little doubt that companies who hold a Tier 5 or Tier 2 Sponsor Licence benefit from working with an expert immigration lawyer. Not only can they advise on compliance requirements, but they can also update you on changes in immigration law and perform six or twelve-month mock audits to ensure your organisation’s HR systems are functioning as they should.
Ratings for Tier 2 and 5 Sponsor Licences
If your application for a Sponsor Licence is approved, you will receive an A-rating. This allows you to start issuing certificates of sponsorship so you can recruit staff from outside the EEA.
If you do not meet your sponsor duties, your licence may be downgraded to a B-rating. If this occurs, your ability to issue certificates of sponsorship will be suspended until you make the improvements required to bring your rating back up to an A. The Home Office will issue an action plan, which if not implemented could mean that your licence is revoked.
HR policies and procedures needed to maintain an A-rating
The details of the sponsor duties and responsibilities are contained in the Sponsor Guidance (SG) Tiers 2 and 5 of the Points-Based System (SG).
It helps to understand the aims of the various duties and responsibilities when creating the policies and procedures to meet compliance. The SG notes that the aims of the sponsor duties are to:
- prevent abuse of sponsor assessment procedures
- capture any patterns of migrant behaviour early that cause concern
- address possible weaknesses in the sponsor's processes which cause those patterns
- monitor compliance with immigration rules
The following are the key priorities that an organisation must consider and be able to demonstrate to comply with the duties and responsibilities of a Sponsor Licence holder:
- There must be specific persons in the company responsible for the duties and responsibilities. These personnel must be adequately trained, aware of the importance of compliance and know of any others in the business who may have responsibility for maintaining compliance and the scope of that responsibility.
- Key personnel responsible for compliance should have their duties and responsibilities referred to in their employment contract.
- The sponsor must have a mechanism for keeping up with changes to the SG and reporting these changes to the relevant key personnel. One way to achieve this is to engage an experienced immigration solicitor to keep you up -to-date with any developments.
- The person in charge of compliance must be supported, with backup personnel and systems in place in case they are sick or taken away from their duties.
- Any changes to a sponsored worker’s job or circumstances which may affect the compliance of the organisation needs to be discussed with the persons responsible for compliance before the changes are implemented.
- There must be efficient record-keeping and reporting systems in place, appropriate to the size and type of the business.
- All sponsored migrants must be made aware of the Sponsor Licence holder’s obligations and any time limits for compliance. This can be mentioned in all:
- job offer letters and contracts
- Employment policies and staff handbooks
- Induction procedures
- Periodic follow-up reminders
In addition, UK Tier 2 and 5 Sponsor Licence holders must co-operate fully with the Home Office and make themselves and their HR systems available if an inspection visit is made.
Complying with Sponsor Licence duties and responsibilities is a serious matter. Employers thinking about employing talent from outside the EEA need to consider whether they have the necessary time, knowledge and HR systems required to meet compliance. An experienced immigration lawyer is worth their weight in gold when it comes to updating you on changes to the SG and helping you comply with your duties and responsibilities.