USA and the UK
- Introduction to UK Visa Sponsorship for Employers
- Employer Responsibilities for UK Visa Sponsorship
- Right to Work and Suitability Checks
- Certificate of Sponsorship Applications and Renewals of Certificates
- Home Office Compliance Visits
- Impact of Sponsor Licence Being Downgraded
- Impact of Sponsor Licence Suspension
- How Can IAS Lawyers Help
- Frequently Asked Questions
Introduction to UK Visa Sponsorship for Employers
UK employers can sponsor foreign nationals under various different categories including the Skilled Worker Visa, Intra-Company Transfer or Health and Care Worker Visa.
Companies which opt to sponsor workers have a duty to comply with the country’s immigration laws by keeping records, reporting workforce changes and undergoing Home Office compliance audits.
One of the main benefits of visa sponsorship is that it enables employers to choose workers from a global talent pool, which can ensure the recruitment of workers with the right specialised skills or help to fill a skills shortage gap.
Therefore, many UK businesses believe becoming a sponsor helps to build a more diverse workforce, improve productivity and increase competitiveness.
Employer Responsibilities for UK Visa Sponsorship
If an employer opts to become a UK visa sponsor there are a number of obligations that must be fulfilled to meet UK immigration laws. These include:
- Applying for and maintaining a Sponsorship Licence
- Issuing Certificate of Sponsorships (CoS) to all sponsored employees.
- Conducting out Right to Work Checks to ensure all staff members have the correct visa and work permissions.
- Keeping accurate and up-to-date records of sponsored employees
- Reporting any changes in the sponsored employee’s circumstances
- Informing the Home Office about any unexplained and prolonged worker absences
- Complying with all relevant UK employment laws, including minimum salary requirements and working conditions
- Cooperating with any Home Office audits or investigations
- Ensuring all roles offered are genuine vacancies
- Paying all fees associated with employing sponsored workers including the Immigration Skills Charge and Certificate of Sponsorship issuing costs.
Failing to meet these obligations can have serious consequences including financial penalties, suspension of your Sponsor Licence as well as reputational damage to a company.
Right to Work and Suitability Checks
Companies employing workers from overseas must carry out suitability checks when sponsoring to ensure that UK immigration laws are complied with.
It is a legal requirement for employers to conduct the following checks before sponsoring a foreign national:
- Right to Work checks – ensure the potential worker has the legal right to work in the UK and employers should check the authenticity of the documents provided by the employee to establish their right to work. This can include checking their passports, identity cards and all visa paperwork.
- Skill and qualification checks – verify the sponsored worker has the necessary skills and qualifications required for the specific job and that their qualifications are genuine and recognised by the relevant authorities.
- English language proficiency – ensure that the sponsored employee meets the required English language proficiency level. Check they have passed approved English language tests (if applicable).
- Criminal record checks – depending on the nature of the job, you may be required to conduct criminal record checks to ensure that the sponsored individual does not pose a risk to public safety. Certain roles, such as those in healthcare or working with vulnerable individuals, may require enhanced criminal record checks and DBS checks.
- Genuine vacancy and employment checks – you should ensure that the job you are filling with the individual is genuine and that you have created the position to meet a legitimate business need. Confirm that the terms and conditions of employment are consistent with UK employment laws.
- Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) – ensure that the sponsored individual has paid the IHS, which provides access to the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. Note those on the Health and Care Worker Visa are exempt from this charge.
- Advertising and recruitment requirements – in certain cases, you may be required to show that you have made genuine efforts to recruit a settled worker in the UK before sponsoring a non-UK worker.
- Compliance with Sponsorship License conditions – ensure ongoing compliance with the conditions outlined in the Sponsorship License, such as reporting duties and record-keeping requirements.
- Verification of information – check the accuracy of all information provided by the employee in their visa application and supporting documents.
Employers are responsible for conducting these checks throughout the employment of the sponsored individual and are expected to maintain records to demonstrate compliance with immigration rules.
Failure to carry out these checks or to comply with sponsorship obligations can result in penalties, suspension, or revocation of the sponsorship licence. It is crucial for employers to stay informed about their responsibilities and to follow the guidelines set by the UK Home Office.
Certificate of Sponsorship Applications and Renewals of Certificates
To be able to issue Certificates of Sponsorship you must hold a Sponsorship Licence. This can be applied for via the Home Office and once approved allows access to a Sponsorship Management System (SMS) account,
The SMS is used to issue Certificates of Sponsorships – which are vital for workers to apply for and receive their visas.
Once the licence is granted, employers should identify the job roles that could be filled by overseas workers, ensuring the roles qualify in terms of minimum salary and qualifications.
The employer then requests an allocation of CoS through the SMS account, with the number of CoSs permissible based on the employer’s sponsorship rating and job details.
Each sponsored worker must be assigned a CoS as it is necessary to apply for a Work Visa from outside and inside the UK.
The visa application process involves submitting supporting documents, attending biometrics appointments and paying relevant fees. Once the visa is granted, the employee can travel to the UK and commence work for the sponsoring employer.
Home Office Compliance Visits
Part of being a Sponsor Licence holder means complying with UK immigration and employment laws. To ensure that employers of overseas nationals are following the regulations the Home Office carries out compliance visits to assess if holders are adhering to the terms and conditions of their licence.
Compliance visits are not done on a set schedule and employers should be ready at any time for an inspection. Often the Home Office makes a compliance visit if they are alerted to any of the following factors:
- High staff turnover
- Unusual changes in sponsorship activity
- Concerns about non-compliance or previous immigration law breaches
Failure to pass a compliance visit can result in loss or downgrading of your Sponsor Licence and withdrawal of your workers’ visas.
If you are concerned if your organisation is ready for a compliance visit then reach out to IAS as we can arrange a compliance audit to check that you have the correct procedures and processes in place.
Impact of Sponsor Licence Being Downgraded
If an employer is found guilty of non-compliance it can result in their Sponsor Licence being downgraded. This can have an impact on a company’s ability to recruit workers from overseas.
With a downgraded licence, employers may be unable to sponsor as many potential workers or the option to expedite processing of applications may be removed. The Home Office may also increase its scrutiny of the company and carry out additional compliance visits or require additional reporting thresholds.
Although the downgrading of a Sponsor Licence does not have an immediate impact on currently employed workers from overseas, it could in the long term if restrictions have been made on the ability to renew CoSs for existing staff.
Companies who experience a downgrading of their licence are usually given the opportunity to implement changes that address the issues of non-compliance.
However, employers who do not take effective action within a specified timeframe could have their licence suspended or revoked.
Impact of Sponsor Licence Suspension
If an organisation has their UK Sponsor Licence suspended it means they can no longer sponsor workers from overseas.
In most cases, the suspension is temporary and the Home Office will work with employers to tackle issues of non-compliance that resulted in the licence being suspended.
The amount of time a licence is suspended for is on a case-by-case basis and depends on the initial reason for the suspension as well as the company’s actions to address the Home Office’s concerns.
A company with a suspended licence will experience the following:
- Loss of sponsorship privileges and will no longer be able to issue CoSs or recruit new workers from overseas
- Undergo a compliance visit from the Home Office and ongoing checks
- Existing workers will not be affected but may face issues if their CoS needs to be renewed
Unfortunately, if the employer does not adequately address the outstanding issues then the Home Office may decide to revoke the Sponsor Licence, which means a complete loss of sponsorship privileges.
Without a Sponsor Licence, the employer will not be able to assign CoS or sponsor workers.
Any existing sponsored workers in the UK will have to stop working for the company and find alternative arrangements with a different employer otherwise they will have to leave the UK.
Our team of lawyers at IAS are ready to assist those looking to come to the UK as sponsored workers or support businesses planning to sponsor foreign nationals.
We can offer advice on how to ensure sponsors meet their responsibilities and avoid potential issues such as licence suspension. If a licence is revoked our experts can build a case for an appeal against the Home Office decision.
To find out more about how we can help you with any concerns regarding visa sponsoring companies in the UK please call us now on +1 844 290 6312 or use our online chat.
Last modified on January 2nd, 2024 at 5:41 am
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There is no set time limit for Sponsor Licence visits so it is important for sponsoring companies and organisations to be ready for a Home Visit at any point otherwise it could have an impact on their ability to sponsor and employ workers from overseas.
Yes, if the ownership of a sponsoring organisation changes then the new owner or shareholder must be reported to the Home Office via the SMS. Failure to do this could result in financial penalties or licence restrictions.
If a sponsoring company does not meet the duties of having a Sponsor Licence holder then there are possible repercussions. It is the duty of the Sponsor Licence holder to ensure they are preventing illegal working in the UK.
Failure to carry out the correct Right to Work check could lead to a fine of £20,000 fine for each breach.