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Licence Rating for UK Visa Sponsorship

Being awarded a licence rating as a Sponsor Licence holder is an important part of employing workers from overseas.

For help in maintaining an A-rated Sponsor Licence, reach out to our team of professional immigration lawyers. Call us at +1 844 290 6312 for immediate help and assistance with your recruitment process. We’re here to help you in person, via the phone or online chat.

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    What is an A-rated Sponsor Licence in the UK?

    Holding an A-rated licence demonstrates an organization is complying with UK immigration law when sponsoring foreign nationals.

    All employers planning to hire overseas workers must have a Sponsor Licence from the Home Office in order to sponsor UK work visas such as the Skilled Worker Visa.

    When approved, holders of the licence are granted an A-rating to show they have the correct procedures in place to legally employ foreign workers and are able to assign Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to sponsored workers.

    However, it is possible for a Sponsor Licence rating to be downgraded or the Sponsor Licence to be revoked if holders fail to meet their obligations.

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    How to Get An A-rated Sponsor Licence

    When a Sponsor Licence is issued by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) it is done so with an A-rating as the holder has to meet a number of essential criteria in order to have their application approved.

    The aim of the rating system is to encourage employers to comply with licence responsibilities and highlight if they are failing to meet the requirements involved with sponsoring overseas workers.

    Licence ratings are still applicable even if a firm is sponsoring temporary or seasonal workers, students or those with a Skilled Worker Visa.

    In order to keep their A-rating, sponsors must comply with the following:

    • Recruit overseas workers who have the correct skills, experience or qualifications for the role they will carry out in the UK.
    • Ensure there is documentation to support the worker’s suitability for the job
    • Assign CoSs only to those workers who meet the criteria for sponsorship
    • Immediately inform the Home Office of any changes that mean a sponsored worker is no longer meeting the criteria of their visa

    It is also essential for all employers of overseas workers to report any changes in circumstances of a sponsored worker via the online Sponsor Management System (SMS), such as a change in address or other contact details. Any unpermitted absences of more than 10 days must be reported using the SMS.

    Sponsor Licence holders must also notify UKVI of any changes to the company, such as a transfer of ownership, a change in office location or a being subjected to a takeover.

    UK immigration laws allow the Home Office to conduct a compliance visit if they believe a sponsor is not meeting their obligations. These unannounced visits give authorities the chance to check if the correct procedures are in place to prevent illegal working.

    If the Home Office finds evidence an employer has not met the required level of compliance then a decision can be made to downgrade a licence to a B-rating. Alternatively, if the breaches are severe then a licence can be suspended or revoked.

    What Can Downgrade Your Business to a B-rating?

    A Sponsor Licence can be downgraded to a B-rating if there has been a minor breach by an employer when sponsoring foreign nationals.

    Examples of when B-rating may be given include:

    • An SMS user was found to be sharing their SMS login details with another person.
    • A worker broke the conditions of their permission to stay, and the sponsor failed to follow the appropriate reporting guidelines
    • The sponsor has been subjected to a civil penalty that impacts their business operations or has received a penalty for failing to pay VAT or duty
    • The employer has exceeded the limits of their Sponsor Licence, for example sponsoring more than 20 workers via the Intra-Company Graduate Trainee.

    In addition, if a Sponsor Licence also fails to cooperate with a compliance visit or demonstrates a lack of complying with sponsor duties then they are likely to be subjected to a downgrading.

    In order to avoid potentially being downgraded then reach out to IAS for advice on how to ensure compliance with Sponsor Licence duties so you are ready for a visit from the Home Office.

    What Does a B-rating Mean?

    The main impact of being downgraded to a B-rating is the inability to issue Certificates of Sponsorship to any new workers until the rating has been restored to an A.

    However, it is still possible to extend existing certificates to workers so they do not have to find alternative employment or return to their home country.

    When companies are issued with a B-rating, the Home Office will provide support to help them regain a top rating within a set time period. If they do not get an A-rating within this timescale then it is likely the licence will be revoked, and this will have a significant impact on currently employed foreign workers.

    How to Regain an A-rating

    Following a downgrading to a B-rating, an action plan will be issued to help provide steps to regaining an A-rated licence.  In most cases, businesses are given three months to make changes to ensure compliance with UK immigration laws.

    An action plan from the Home Office is likely to include the following requirements:

    • Improved day-to-day record-keeping
    • Retrain staff who are in charge of issuing CoSs
    • Ensure all employees are aware of what changes need to be reported to UKVI

    There is a charge for the action plan, and the cost of £1,476 must be paid within ten days of being notified of the downgrading. Failure to pay the charge will lead to an automatic licence removal.

    To regain an A-rating then employers must ensure they complete all the actions in the plan before being reassessed at the end of the three months by the Home Office.

    Failure again to meet the sponsor obligations means they will be issued with another B-rating and provide a second action plan at the cost of a further £1,476.

    It is important to note that a failure to meet the action plan a second time will result in the Sponsor’s licence being revoked.

    Our team of legal experts can help you obtain an licence rating for UK visa sponsorship. Contact Us

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      How Can IAS Lawyers Help

      Our team of lawyers at IAS are ready to provide support for any Sponsor Licence holders who are facing a downgrading or are worried about complying with their obligations for employing overseas workers.

      We can offer advice on how to ensure sponsors meet their responsibilities and avoid potential issues such as licence suspension. If a licence is downgraded our experts can provide support in following a Home Office action plan.

      To find out more about how we can help you with any concerns regarding sponsoring foreign national workers please call us now on +1 844 290 6312 or use our online chat.

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                Employers can reapply for a new Sponsor Licence after a cooling-off period – this period can vary depending on the reasons for the licence being removed. You should reach out to an immigration specialist for advice to ensure you have addressed the issues that led to the revoked licence in the first place.