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Sponsor Licence Suspension

The holders of worker sponsor licences are expected to fulfil a variety of duties in compliance with the law and guidance from the Home Office. In cases where the Home Office believes that an organisation has failed to properly discharge these duties, they may suspend their sponsor licence.

If your business’s sponsor licence has been suspended, you need to act fast. Suspensions can quickly progress to revocations, which could be hugely damaging for your reputation and future plans. Your options will generally be to either:

  • Respond to the Home Office letter challenging the allegations made, and seeking the reinstatement of your sponsor licence; or
  • Respond to the letter accepting the allegations and setting out how you are addressing the issues that led to a breach of your sponsor licence duties.

W H Solicitors are experts in challenging sponsor licence suspensions. You can contact us to speak to one of our specialist solicitors.

We will work closely with you to identify any problems, and can act swiftly and decisively to safeguard your business interests.

Sponsor Licence Suspension – The Law

All licenced sponsors are required to act in accordance with their duties when sponsoring a migrant worker. This means complying with the Immigration Rules and acting diligently to prevent abuse of the UK’s immigration system.

If the Home Office decides that your organisation has not complied with the rules and duties incumbent on worker sponsor licence holders, they could suspend your licence. Sponsor licence suspensions cover all visa categories and prevent organisations from sponsoring any new migrant workers during the suspension period.

The Home Office will then commence a full enquiry – the result of which will either be the reinstatement, downgrading, or revocation of the sponsor licence. Licences are more likely to be revoked where an organisation does not respond to a suspension letter, fails to respond within the correct timeframe, or refuses to properly engage with the Home Office.

In cases where the Home Office chooses not to revoke a sponsor licence, they can reinstate the licence at either an A-rating or a B-rating. The decision to reinstate a sponsor licence at A-rating will generally allow the business concerned to return to usual operation.

B-ratings indicate that the organisation still has work to do and will prevent them from issuing any new Certificates of Sponsorship until certain issues have been addressed. The Home Office will set these out in an action plan that requires progress to be made within a specified timeframe. Failure to address the issues raised could lead to the revocation of a licence, and sponsor organisations are expected to pay a fee for the Home Office action plan.

Why Would the Home Office Suspend a Sponsor Licence?

Sponsor licence suspensions typically follow from a UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) audit. The process might begin after a compliance visit, but UKVI could act after receiving intelligence or in response to concerns raised when a new application has been submitted.

In many cases, action will be taken after issues were identified during a UKVI compliance visit. Some of the most common reasons for sponsor licence suspensions are:

  • concerns about whether the organisation has a genuine vacancy for which they need to hire foreign workers;
  • failure to pay sponsored workers in accordance with sponsor guidance;
  • ineffective or insufficient HR policies and procedures;
  • failure to adequately comply with record-keeping duties, or failure to report relevant changes of circumstance.

Outside of these common issues, the Home Office can act against any sponsor organisation that fails to comply with the prescribed under the Immigration Rules.

What Does a Sponsor Licence Suspension Mean for Your Business?

During the period of suspension, you will be unable to assign any new Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS). Any existing applications will be put on hold pending the outcome of the Home Office investigation. Your business will also be temporarily removed from the Home Office’s register of sponsors.

A suspension should not affect any sponsored workers currently under your employment, however they may be affected if the Home Office takes steps to revoke your sponsor licence.

During the suspension period, the sponsor organisation must continue to comply with all of its sponsor duties and failure to do so may strengthen the case for revocation. If the sponsor licence is due for renewal during the period of suspension, an application should be made as normal if they wish to continue recruiting workers from abroad.

What are your options?

Sponsors that receive a suspension will usually have 20 working days to respond to the decision. Failure to do so could lead to the licence being revoked, whilst proper cooperation with the Home Office can be extremely beneficial.

The options available to sponsor organisations include:

  • accepting the suspension and working to rectify the breaches identified by the Home Office; or
  • responding to the Home Office challenging the allegations made, and seeking the reinstatement of the sponsor licence.

If an organisation chooses to fight its case, it must be able to properly address the grounds for suspension identified by the Home Office. If there are factual errors with the Home Office case, these should be challenged with supporting evidence. Businesses should also set out the robust measures taken to rectify a breach where the grounds relied on by the Home Office are agreed.

If the suspension of your sponsor licence follows from a UKVI compliance visit, you should request copies of the Home Office’s compliance report along with any notes, documents, or transcripts made in relation to the inspection. The contents of these documents could help to form the basis of a challenge to the suspension of your sponsor licence. In some cases, the failure of the Home Office to meet the necessary standards while following the correct legal procedures could render their enforcement action unlawful.

In cases of a minor breach it may be possible to challenge the proportionality of a suspension. This is particularly the case where the result of a suspension following a relatively minor breach would have a significant and disproportionate impact on the ability of the business to continue operating.

How We Can Help?

If your sponsor licence has been suspended, swift and decisive action is needed to resolve the issues and protect your business against the possibility of licence revocation.

WH Solicitors provide on-demand expert support that can safeguard your business against the effects of sponsor licence suspension or revocation. We’re detail-driven, able to spot issues in suspension cases, and have an established history of dealing with the Home Office.

By working with our specialist immigration solicitors, you’ll stand the best chance of protecting your sponsor licence status and prevent compliance issues from arising in the future. Whatever your goals, and regardless of the problems you’re facing, we’ll work closely with you to secure a positive outcome.

Get help with your sponsor licence suspension today and minimise the impact of a Home Office investigation by contacting our team on (+44) 01483 608 786 or by emailing contact@whsolicitors.co.uk.

Sponsor Licence Suspension

FAQs

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.

A suspension should not affect any sponsored workers currently under your employment, however they may be affected if the Home Office takes steps to revoke your sponsor licence.

If the Home Office revokes the licence, all of the organisation’s Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) will be cancelled, and they will no longer be permitted to employ migrant workers. Sponsored workers will have their visas limited to 60 days, or however long remains on their existing visa – whichever is shorter. They must leave the UK, unless they secure leave to remain under a different visa category.

Yes – to do so you must respond to UKVI within the time stipulated in their sponsor licence suspension notification letter.

In your response, you will need to provide any requested information and set out supporting evidence that explains why the suspension should be overturned and your ability to sponsor workers reinstated.

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.