If you have recently received notification from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) that your sponsorship licence is at risk due to non-compliance, the action you will need to take to retain or regain your sponsorship licence will depend on whether it has been suspended, downgraded, or revoked. UKVI is constantly assessing and checking if employers are meeting their sponsor licence obligation and duties, and if not, they may take action that prevents them from continuing to sponsor overseas workers. In this article, we will explain the difference between a sponsor licence that has been suspended, downgraded, or revoked and what to do in each case.
All sponsor licences, when first issued, are granted with an A-rating, meaning that a) the employer is meeting their sponsorship compliance obligations, and b) their ability to sponsor overseas workers is not restricted. UKVI may downgrade an employer’s sponsor licence from an A-rating to a B-rating if they have minor concerns regarding compliance. This may happen, for example, if an employer is late in reporting a change in circumstances via SMS. UKVI often downgrade sponsor licences as a step before suspension or revocation, allowing the holder the opportunity to resolve the matter.
The good news is that if your licence has been downgraded, by taking appropriate and prompt action to resolve the underlying compliance issue (i.e. fixing the process), you will quickly be able to re-establish your A-rating.
UKVI states, “If we believe that you are breaching your sponsor duties and/or pose a threat to immigration control, or are engaging in behaviours or actions that are not conducive to the public good, we may suspend your licence while we make further enquiries”. When a licence is suspended, an employer is no longer able to issue new Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS).
The Home Office may revoke your sponsor licence for a wide range of reasons, including if there is a serious or systematic breach of your sponsor duties or if your business poses a threat to immigration control. It is important to note that if your licence is revoked, you are no longer able to sponsor overseas workers, and any existing visas for your sponsored workers will be cancelled.
Unfortunately, there is no right of appeal against a decision to revoke your licence, and importantly, you will not be able to apply for another sponsor licence until 12 months, or more has passed since the date of revocation (this is referred to as the “cooling off period”).
Sponsor licence revocation typically only happens following a very serious breach of the sponsorship rules or where several opportunities to resolve the matter have been missed. This is why it is so important to take early action to resolve any problems identified by UKVI. This is also why it is so important to engage an immigration Solicitor from the very outset if you have concerns that your organisation may not be compliant with its sponsorship duties or if UKVI has advised you of such concerns. Robust and effective sponsorship systems and processes, backed up by regular mock audits carried out by an immigration Solicitor, are the only true ways to protect your sponsorship licence and, hence, your ability to hire and retain valued overseas workers.
For assistance with your immigration law matter, phone us on 0121 777 7715 to make an appointment with one of our SRA Regulated Immigration Solicitors based in Birmingham and London.
Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice.