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Avoiding mistakes in a sponsor licence application

Obtaining a sponsor licence enables your organisation to sponsor migrant workers in the UK. The Home Office will determine whether an organisation is eligible for a sponsor licence by looking at whether the organisation can meet key criteria.

Sponsor licence applications are considered by the Home Office by reviewing documentation and evidence provided by the prospective sponsor. In this article we take a look at common mistakes which may result in refusal of a sponsor licence application – something which can in some instances freeze your business out of sponsorship for 12 months.

Missing or unsuitable documentation 

A sponsor licence application may be refused if you do not supply your mandatory and certain optional documentation within 5 working days of the date of submission of your online application.

The documents you will need to provide will depend on the business sector you operate in and the type of roles you are looking to sponsor. A full list of documents you must provide can be found in Appendix A of the Home Office guidance for sponsors. In most cases, you will need to provide at least four supporting documents from the lists included in Appendix A.

Grounds for refusal based on supporting documentation include cases where the supplied documents are out of date, incomplete, or not detailed correctly. For example, a lease of a business premises which was not signed by both parties to the agreement.

Check your staff: Key personnel

The organisation applying for a Home Office sponsor licence requires certain individuals to act as ‘Key Personnel’ on the licence, i.e. Authorising Officer, Key Contact and Level 1 and 2 users. There are certain eligibility requirements that all key personnel must meet in order to qualify for the roles.

It is important to select individuals carefully, as part of the licence application process will involve background checks conducted by the Home Office to ensure key personnel are suitable for the roles.

None of your Key Personnel can be:

  • a representative who is not based in the UK
  • subject to a Bankruptcy Restrictions Order or Bankruptcy Restrictions Undertaking
  • a contractor or consultant who is contracted for a specific project
  • subject to a Debt Relief Restrictions Order or Debt Relief Restrictions Undertaking
  • legally prohibited from being a company director
  • subject to adverse involvement with the Home Office such as employing illegal workers

The key personnel must also hold valid immigration status for the duration of the licence, which is now 10 years (previously 4 years). Your organisation will therefore need to appoint individuals who are not subject to immigration control as they will be required to hold immigration status in the UK for the duration of the licence.

You must speak with your nominated key personnel, prior to their appointment, to confirm they are individuals who meet the eligibility requirements.

The genuineness of the role

The Home Office will also consider the genuineness of the sponsored job role. The Home Office decision maker must be satisfied that the role the applicant is being sponsored for is a genuine vacancy and has not been created mainly so that the applicant can apply for entry clearance or permission to stay in the UK.

As part of their Appendix A responses, a sponsor will need to provide the following information about the migrant worker they intended to assign the CoS to:

  • their job title and Standard Occupation Classification (SOC) code
  • duties and functions of the role
  • where the role sits on the hierarchy chart for the organisation (which must also be provided as part of the application)
  • the minimum salary which would be guaranteed if the role were vacant today
  • the applicant’s skillset, experience, and qualifications required for the role

It is recommended within the Appendix A information, which will be provided together with any mandatory supporting documentation as part of the sponsor licence application, that the sponsor details the specific reasons why the organisation requires the licence to sponsor the worker.

Not being ready for a pre-licence compliance check/visit 

With the rapid increase of applications and subsequent grants comes the inevitable increase in the Home Office completing digital and in person compliance checks. It is possible that the Home Office will complete a pre-licence check on the organisation which may include a visit to the intended sponsor's place of business as confirmed within the licence application, or via a video link with screen-sharing facilities.

Sponsors should ensure they hold the following and be prepared to present these documents on the date of the check. This may also take the form of a mock compliance check, where the proposed sponsor will have ready to hand the following information/evidence:

  • Details for employees including their names, date of birth and emergency contact details
  • Copy of employment contracts (if applicable).
  • A sample of right to work checks for British/Irish/settled employees and employees who are subject to immigration control
  • Details about the proposed sponsored worker, including their Standard Occupation Classification (SOC) code for the job role, their salary, and job description
  • Hourly rates for employees (remember increases to the National Living Wage coming from 1 April 2024)
  • The type of HR procedures the sponsor would follow if it is discovered that their employees no longer have the right to work in the UK

The Home Office may ask for further information so be prepared to answer questions about the process and procedures you have in place to monitor the duties, functions, and responsibilities of each worker employed by the organisation.

Contact our expert lawyers today to ensure you do not fall foul of the intricate sponsor licensing regulations on 0300 131 6767 or fill in the contact form below.

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