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Sponsor Licence Compliance and Training

Businesses that acquire sponsor licences and hire migrant workers must comply with the duties outlined in the Home Office’s Sponsor Guidance and the Immigration Rules. Failure to properly comply can lead to the suspension or revocation of a sponsor licence, both of which can have a devastating impact on the business involved.

Our expert team of immigration lawyers provide comprehensive compliance audits and helpful training sessions that allow businesses to adhere to all the requirements of their sponsor licence. It’s the easiest way to bring your business in line with the law and to prevent any action from the Home Office.

To ensure your business is compliant with its Sponsor Licence obligations, speak with our expert team and arrange an audit or training session today.

How to comply with sponsor licence duties

Businesses that hold a sponsor licence are required to act in accordance with the law and uphold the integrity of the UK immigration system. They are subject to a number of key duties under the Sponsor Guidance and Immigration Rules.

Sponsor licence compliance can be resource-intensive, and the Home Office regularly updates the Sponsor Guidance. This can make it difficult for businesses to keep up with their compliance obligations and could result in inadvertent or accidental breaches. If these are discovered during a UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) audit or compliance visit, the sponsor could face a fine, or the downgrading, suspension, or even revocation of their sponsor licence.

Different organisations will handle their sponsor licence in different ways, but it’s important to make sure that you understand your obligations. These are intended to:

  • Prevent the abuse of sponsorship assessment procedures;
  • help to identify patterns of migrant behaviour that cause concern; and
  • monitor migrant workers to ensure they comply with the Immigration Rules.

Businesses can ensure that these aims are met by complying with their sponsor licence duties. These fall into several primary categories – record keeping, monitoring, key personnel, reporting, cooperating with the Home Office, and conducting right to work checks.

Record keeping

Sponsor licence holders must keep complete and accurate records that allow UKVI to conduct checks to ensure compliance.

Documents must be retained for each and every sponsored worker and can be kept either in paper or electronic format. They must be made available to UKVI on request and so should be stored where they are secure and can easily be found.

The following information must be kept for all visa types:

  • the relevant pages of a sponsored worker’s passport, including those featuring personal identity details, leave stamps, period of leave to remain, and immigration status;
  • the worker’s biometric residence permit;
  • their National Insurance number;
  • their current and historic contact details;
  • details of any Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks;
  • a record of a worker’s absences;
  • the worker’s full and updated contract of employment;
  • information relating to rates of pay;
  • documents that show both positions and migrant workers are of the necessary skill level; and
  • other relevant documentation that is pertinent to each visa type.

Documents relating to your sponsor licence application should be kept for the duration of your licence – which usually lasts for four years. Documents relating to sponsored workers should be retained for one year from the date that your sponsorship ends or one year from the date at which the compliance offer examines and approves the records of a migrant who you no longer sponsor (whichever is shorter).


All sponsor licence holders must have sufficient HR systems and procedures in place to monitor migrant workers. Monitoring duties involve tracking the attendance of sponsored workers, in addition to ensuring that they comply with all the terms and conditions of their visa.

The following circumstances must be reported using the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) portal within 10 working days:

  • where a sponsored employee fails to turn up on their first day of work;
  • if there are significant changes in a sponsored worker’s contract of employment;
  • where their contract of employment is terminated early; or
  • if a sponsored worker is absent from work for 10 days or longer without permission. Sponsors are therefore required to ensure sponsored employees are only absent when authorised – such as in cases of annual leave, study leave, overseas travel, and sickness.

Key personnel

Licenced sponsors are required to appoint honest and dependable staff to monitor and administer their licence duties and the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). Organisations must appoint an Authorising  Officer and a Key Contact in addition to Level 1 users who conduct regular activities in connection with the sponsor licence.

The Authorising Officer should usually be the most senior employee who holds the authority to hire migrant workers. Organisations must ensure that the roles of Authorising Officer and at least one Level 1 user are filled at all times.

Sponsor licence roles can be held by existing personnel, and those appointed must be named in the sponsor licence application – with their details retained and updated on the SMS.


Licenced sponsors must report relevant changes of circumstance and certain other matters relating to migrant workers to the Home Office. Reporting must be conducted in a timely manner and failure to do so can lead to investigation and further action by UKVI.

Sponsor organisations are required to report regular non-attendance by migrant workers, non-compliance with visa terms, or the disappearance of a worker. Any organisational changes must also be reported, and can be updated using the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) – including where contact details or appointed key personnel have changed, or in the case of a merger or acquisition.

Cooperation with the Home Office

Sponsor licence holders are obliged to comply with requests from the Home Office, and should provide documentation or access to a site for inspection in a complete and timely manner. Sponsor organisations must also act honestly and provide complete disclosure of all relevant facts when dealing with the Home Office and UKVI.

Conducting right to work checks

All UK employers must check that prospective employees have the right to work in the UK. This obligation is particularly important for sponsor licence holders as failing to conduct compliant right to work checks could lead to the illegal employment of a migrant worker, fines of up to £20,000, and possible criminal sanctions.

Checks on an employee’s immigration status must take place before they commence employment and the documents proving their right to work must be retained and made available to the Home Office on request. Checks should be made on migrant workers at 12-month intervals following their initial check upon employment.

What happens if you fail to comply with the duties of a sponsor licence holder?

Failing to comply with the duties incumbent on sponsor licence holders could have very severe consequences. For one thing, UKVI could suspend an organisation’s sponsor licence if they are concerned that the relevant duties have been breached.

In some cases, UKVI could act to revoke an organisation’s sponsor licence, leaving them unable to recruit, sponsor, or employ migrant workers across any visa category. Sponsored workers who are employed at the time will be left with no choice but to find alternative arrangements or to leave the UK – and they must do so within 60-days or less.

Finally, sponsors that fail to adhere to the rules and guidelines that come with licenced status can be made subject to financial penalties of up to £20,000 per illegally employed migrant worker. Criminal sanctions can also follow in cases where employers deliberately act outside of the law, and failing to comply with sponsor licence duties can do untold damage to an organisation’s reputation.

How we can help?

It couldn’t be more important to remain compliant with the sponsor licence duties if your organisation needs to hire talented migrant workers. Failure to do so could harm your ability to operate as usual, and your reputation may suffer as a result.

WH Solicitors’ specialist team of immigration lawyers can help your organisation to stay on the right side of UKVI by providing flexible training sessions and comprehensive compliance audits.

We’ll help you to understand the requirements and to act on them in a way that prevents disruption to your business. By comparing your organisation’s practices and processes to the latest Home Office guidance, we make it possible to stay compliant with even the most recent of rules, and can help key personnel to give effect to any necessary changes.

Our training sessions are highly engaging and can be conducted in person at your premises, or via video call. You’ll be left with all the knowledge and materials you need to secure a sponsor licence and continue to comply with the Sponsor Guidelines and Immigration Rules.

To find out more, contact our team today on (+44) 01483 608 786 or by emailing contact@whsolicitors.co.uk, and take the first steps towards protecting your sponsor licence status.

Sponsor Licence Training & Compliance


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

Failing to act in accordance with the law by discharging all relevant sponsor licence duties could result in action from the Home Office and UKVI. They may undertake further investigations by way of compliance visits, and could suspend an organisation’s sponsor licence while they carry out further checks.

If it is found that a sponsor licence holder has failed to properly execute their duties, their licence could be downgraded or revoked. This may curtail the leave of existing sponsored workers, and prevent the organisation from hiring migrant workers until they have addressed the issues raised and successfully applied for a new sponsor licence.

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.

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.