A valid UK Sponsor Licence which allows you to recruit non-EEA migrants on Tier 2 or 5 visas lasts for four years. After this period, UK Visas and immigration (UKVI), the sponsor licensing unit, will require that you renew your licence. Failure to renew your Sponsor Licence upon expiry will result in you not being able to assign Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) or issue any Sponsor Declaration forms.
If an application for renewal has not been submitted on or before the expiry date, the licence will lapse. Note that the application does not need to have been approved by the expiry date, it just must be under consideration. The Home Office will temporarily extend the expiry date where a renewal application is accepted. If a licence lapses the sponsor will not be able to issue any more CoSs and the leave of existing migrants may be curtailed to 60 days. Also, employees who are in the UK on Point-Based System (PBS) visas, for example, a Tier 2 (General) Visa, are not eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain if their sponsor does not hold or has not applied to renew a valid licence at the date of application.
Therefore, it is imperative that Sponsor Licence holders know when their licence is up for renewal and prepare to submit a renewal application. One of the best ways to ensure this happens in the right timeframe is to instruct an experienced immigration solicitor to manage the sponsor licence application, compliance and renewal on your behalf. This allows you to get on with the day-to-day running of your business, confident that the sponsor licence side of your HR functions is taken care of.
Preparing for sponsorship licence renewal
The Sponsorship Guidance states that the Home Office will write to sponsors 120 calendar days prior to the expiry date to remind them of the need to renew, again at 30 calendar-day intervals up to the last month, and finally two weeks before the expiry date.
One of the main concerns of UKVI is that the sponsor applying for renewal has their HR systems up to date and they are fully compliant with the duties and responsibilities that come with a UK Sponsor Licence.
UKVI may very well choose to pay a visit to your organisation to check your compliance. It is best practice, therefore, to have a mock audit done by an immigration solicitor to check all your HR policies and procedures are complaint before you apply for renewal of your sponsor licence.
Because of the increase in unannounced visits by the Home Office to the premises of Sponsor Licence holders, it pays to have your HR systems checked and audited for compliance every six months. By doing so, you can be confident that all HR records, files and documents relating to your Tier 2 migrant eligibility criteria and requirements are in order and can be presented at a moment’s notice.
The procedure for applying for renewal
The renewal application must be submitted on the SMS, by a Level 1 user. This can be accessed from three months before the expiry date of the licence. To ensure your application fits in with the sponsorship licence processing time, try not to leave your renewal submission any later than one month before your licence expires.
The online Sponsor Management System (SMS) application is short and will require payment of a new fee. If the incorrect fee is paid, the application will be rejected (unless an overpayment is made, in which case the balance will be refunded to the sponsor). Copies of each page completed and the summary sheet should be printed off and retained on file.
On receipt, the Home Office will carry out checks and may request certain documents which must be sent to it within five working days, or actions may be taken including revoking the licence. This is the stage when a visit from the Home Office to check on compliance is likely to take place.
It is open to the Home Office to renew the licence with an A rating, to renew the licence with a B rating (which will be subject to a time-limited action plan), or to refuse the application.
Allowing your sponsor licence to expire
If your organisation does miss the expiry date (which includes where it applies in time, but an application is rejected due to the wrong fee being paid, or where additional documents are requested but not submitted within a specified time limit), it is likely you will lose your Sponsor Licence and have to submit a fresh application which can be time-consuming and expensive as the full fee must be paid again.
How to ensure the Sponsor Licence renewal process goes through smoothly
By taking these steps, you can be more confident that your Sponsor Licence renewal will occur on time.
- Instruct an experienced immigration law team to manage your entire Sponsor Licence programme on your behalf. They can act as key personnel, manage the SMS and ensure all your records are up to date. Every six months they can conduct mock audits on your HR systems and identify any weaknesses in documentation or security standards that the UKVI may penalise your organisation on when they visit the premises.
- Make sure you obtain in-depth legal advice regarding applying for a Sponsor Licence. The duties and responsibilities attached to a Sponsor Licence are numerous. Not only are you responsible to the Home Office, but the migrants you recruit could face having their right to stay in the UK curtailed if you fail in your compliance responsibilities and have your licence suspended or revoked.
The process for applying for renewal is relatively straightforward provided you have complied with your licence holder duties and responsibilities over the four years you have held a Sponsor Licence, and you submit the renewal application correctly.
OTS Solicitors is one of the most respected immigration law firms in London. By making an appointment with one of our immigration solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today. We can assist you with all aspects of Sponsor Licence applications, compliance and renewals.
If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this blog, please phone our London office on 0207 936 9960
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Posted on: Monday, 17 July, 2017