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Sponsor Licence Revocation

Licenced sponsors are expected to fulfil certain legal duties, and failure to do so can have serious consequences. The Home Office can act to suspend or revoke the sponsor licence of any organisation they believe has breached its duties or where they suspect that an organisation poses a threat to UK immigration control.

WH Solicitors are experienced UK immigration lawyers and have proven experience of challenging Home Office decisions to revoke sponsor licences through judicial review and other means. We work closely with our clients to understand their concerns and help them to create and execute response strategies that protect their reputation and sponsor licence status.

To protect your Sponsor Licence status, get in touch with our expert immigration solicitors today.

Sponsor Licence Revocation – The Law

In cases where the Home Office believes that an organisation has breached any of its obligations under the Immigration Rules, they can revoke its sponsor licence. Sponsor licence revocations cover all visa categories, and mean that the organisation will be unable to recruit, employ, or sponsor migrant workers.

There are a number of reasons why the Home Office may seek to revoke an organisation’s sponsor licence, including:

  • where an organisation has intentionally provided false information on the application for their sponsor licence;
  • if a sponsor is B-rated and fails to meet the requirements set out in a UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) action plan within the specified timeframe;
  • if a sponsor employs a migrant worker for a job that does not meet the criteria for sponsorship – including in terms of skill or salary level.

In some cases, sponsor licence revocation can follow from a period of suspension. The Home Office can act to suspend a sponsor licence if they believe that an organisation has failed to comply with its duties, and doing so allows them to investigate further. Once the Home Office has completed its enquiries, the sponsor licence will either be reinstated, downgraded, or revoked.

What happens if your sponsor licence is revoked?

If an organisation’s sponsor licence is revoked, it will lose the ability to recruit, sponsor, or employ any new migrant workers. A sponsor licence revocation can therefore have a damaging effect on a business’s ability to recruit the best talent and to operate more generally.

The decision will also curtail the leave of any existing sponsored workers already employed by the organisation. They will typically have 60 calendar days or however many days are left of their existing leave (whichever is fewer) to either leave the UK, find alternative employment and sponsorship, or apply for leave under another category if they qualify.

In addition to losing its ability to hire migrant workers, an organisation that has its sponsor licence revoked may be subject to civil and criminal penalties. The penalties imposed will depend on an organisation’s individual circumstances, but fines can rise to as much as £20,000 per illegal worker employed.

Organisations that have had their sponsor licence revoked are unable to make a new application until the end of a cooling-off period – which typically lasts for 12 months from the date of revocation. When making an application for a new sponsor licence, an organisation will need to address the reasons for the revocation and explain the steps they have taken to rectify the breaches identified by the Home Office.

What are your options?

If you have received a notification from the Home Office that your sponsor licence is being revoked, you need to act fast. There is currently no right of appeal to the revocation of a sponsor licence, however it may be possible to seek judicial review of the decision.

The judicial review process involves asking the courts to consider whether the decisions made by a public body were fair, legal, and correct. If the court finds that the decision was not fair, lawful, or correct, a quashing order can be issued. This allows the court to make the decision – however the process is expensive and there is no guarantee that the court will find in an organisation’s favour.

How to respond to a sponsor licence revocation notification

Organisations usually have 20 days to respond to a Home Office sponsor licence revocation notification letter. It’s very important to act quickly and carefully to safeguard your position, and the following steps could help businesses to respond more effectively:

1. Acknowledge receipt of the notification

Whether or not you seek to challenge the decision of the Home Office to revoke your sponsor licence, you should still acknowledge receipt of their notification as soon as possible. The Home Office and UKVI are far more likely to work constructively with employers that proactively engage with them, and cooperation is one of the key duties required of sponsor licence holders.

2. Check and understand the grounds for revocation

It’s also essential for any organisation to understand the grounds for revocation on which the Home Office seeks to rely. Some actions and breaches leave the Home Office with no option to suspend or revoke a sponsor licence (compulsory suspension or revocation) while others are at their discretion.

Compulsory and immediate revocation may follow from serious breaches of the UK immigration rules, including:

  • illegally employing workers;
  • failing to provide documentation at the request of the Home Office;
  • using a Certificate of Sponsorship incorrectly;
  • failing to keep proper and accurate records;
  • submitting false information in connection with a sponsor licence application.

The Home Office and UKVI may act to suspend or revoke a sponsor licence at their discretion in cases where an employer:

  • does not pay a sponsored worker an appropriate salary in line with immigration rules;
  • has made cash payments to a sponsored worker; or
  • has failed to cooperate with UKVI on a compliance visit.

In cases where the grounds for revocation on which the Home Office seeks to rely are incorrect, organisations should act quickly and carefully to supply documentation that evidences why their information is wrong. In such cases, it may be possible to prevent the revocation of a sponsor licence.

3. Issue a robust yet cooperative response

Revocation of a sponsor licence is a serious business, and all key personnel should be involved in devising a response strategy. This includes the Authorising Officer and anyone else who has access to the Sponsor Management System (SMS).

In some cases, it may be appropriate to acknowledge the breaches cited by the Home Office and work to address them with a view to reapplying after the end of the cooling-off period.

Alternatively, some organisations may be able to demonstrate that the revocation of a sponsor licence would have a disproportionate effect on the business and its employees. This might apply in cases where the business can show that losing its sponsor licence would have a wider economic impact – perhaps causing redundancies or the loss of major contracts.

4. Responding to the Home Office

Above all, it’s important for any organisation facing the revocation of a sponsor licence to respond effectively. It’s essential to acknowledge the points raised by the Home Office and to provide a clear account of the steps taken to address any issues – all backed up by evidence that supports your argument. Employers should remember that UKVI are focused on protecting the integrity of the UK immigration system, and they must be satisfied that all steps are being taken to prevent further breaches and to guarantee compliance with the Immigration Rules.

5. Await a response

Once a response has been submitted, employers will need to wait for the Home Office to make a decision. During this time they will be unable to recruit, sponsor, or employ and more migrant workers.  The Home Office generally aims to issue a decision within 20 working days or receiving a response, but lead times vary depending on the complexity of the issues involved.

How We Can Help?

Sponsor licence revocation can cause very significant issues for the businesses involved, and could even cause sponsored workers to have to leave the UK.

A timely, robust, and well-executed response is essential for any business that wants to protect its status and reputation when facing the loss of its sponsor licence. Expert legal advice can make all the difference between the reinstatement of a licence and the loss of the right to employ migrant workers.

WH Solicitors’ specialist team provide clear and unambiguous advice on how to proceed in these difficult circumstances. Working closely with key stakeholders, we will help you to devise a response strategy that protects your position and remedies any areas of non-compliance with UK Immigration Rules. With extensive experience of the judicial review process, we can also fight your case and work to quash irregular and disproportionate decisions.

To protect your sponsor licence status, contact our team today by calling (+44) 01483 608 786 or by emailing contact@whsolicitors.co.uk.

Sponsor Licence Revocation


The Home Office may revoke the sponsor licence of an organisation if it believes that it has breached or failed to comply with its duties under the Immigration Rules – or if it is suspected that the organisation poses a threat to UK immigration control.

Organisations with a sponsor licence are required to prevent the abuse of the UK immigration system and comply with the Immigration Rules. There are a variety of duties incumbent on licence holders, but the most commonly breached duties include:

  • Record keeping duties – including maintaining up-to-date contact details for all sponsored migrant workers, along with proof that compliant right to work checks have been conducted.
  • Monitoring duties – to keep track of whether migrant employees are complying with the terms of their visa. This duty also required sponsor licence holders to conduct compliant right to work checks.
  • Reporting duties – to provide the Home Office with information about migrant workers that regularly fail to attend work, do not comply with the terms of their visa, or who have disappeared.
  • Cooperation with the Home Office – supplying them with information on request and generally dealing with UKVI in an open, honest, and transparent manner.
  • Satisfying the ‘genuineness test’ – in that all roles for which the sponsor licence applies must be genuine vacancies.
  • Keeping key personnel compliant – by ensuring that anyone with access to the Sponsor Management System (SMS) reports to the Authorising Officer and is demonstrably honest, dependable, and reliable – having gone through the necessary background checks and training.

Visit our compliance and training page to find out more about the duties of sponsor licence holders.

In short, yes. UKVI and the Home Office can suspend, downgrade, or revoke a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence if it is found that the organisation does not comply with the relevant immigration rules.

Action by the Home Office can have devastating consequences for the businesses who have their Sponsor Licence suspended or revoked. For one thing, they will immediately lose their ability to issue new Certificates of Sponsorship and the workers who are already sponsored could be affected.

Yes. If your sponsor licence is revoked, any sponsored workers under your employment will have their leave to remain curtailed to 60 days or however long remains of their leave (whichever is shorter).

During this time, the migrant workers affected will need to find sponsorship from an alternative employer, make a new visa application under a different category, or otherwise leave the UK. In cases where an employee was aware that their employer was in breach of sponsor licence duties and rules, they will not have a 60-day grace period and must make alternative arrangements immediately.

Any visa applications that were pending at the point of sponsor licence revocation will be deemed invalid. This means that any sponsored worker in the process of applying for a visa will not have their application accepted.

Sponsored workers who are unable to make alternative arrangements may be subject to detention and removal from the country if they do not vacate the UK by the end of their 60-day grace period. If a migrant worker is detained and removed from the UK, future applications to return to the country will usually fail for a period of ten years.

Visit our Sponsor Licence Compliance and Training page to find out more.

The contents of this webpage are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to constitute legal advice. All information is correct as of the date of publication, and any individual or organisation should be careful to seek qualified advice from a specialist immigration lawyer before acting on any of the topics referenced by this content.