The good news first. Last week the Home Office announced that from 6 April 2024 onwards, sponsor licences will no longer expire. Historically, sponsor licences are valid for four years and require online submission and payment of a fee to renew for a further four years at a time. The Home Office can choose to audit a licence holder before granting an extension.
Following the Home Office’s announcement, sponsors whose licence are expiring before 6 April 2024 must submit an extension application one last time. Those with licences that expire after this date have been automatically given a 10 year validity while the Home Office rolls out expiry date removal.
Now the bad news. The removal of licence expiry dates and therefore the requirement to submit renewal applications will likely free up Home Office caseworkers to perform more frequent licence audits. The Home Office will probably increase audit visits in any event (which can be announced or unannounced – the latter being a Home Office auditor turning up at your business premises without prior warning) to replace its licence renewal review process.
The discipline of being required to renew a licence every four years often helps sponsors ensure their files are in order, key personnel up to date and HR systems in place to satisfactorily comply with their sponsor duties. The combination of more frequent audits, the recent threefold increase in civil penalties for employing illegal workers, as well as the potential for more lackadaisical sponsors is likely to result in increased action being taken against sponsors by the Home Office. In a worst case scenario, this could be revocation of your sponsor licence and the curtailment of all of your sponsored workers’ permission. It is therefore important to ensure continued compliance with your sponsor duties even once licences become perpetual.
We have set out below some top tips for remaining compliant with your sponsor duties and avoiding action being taken, should your business be audited:
Ensure you keep required documents on file for sponsored workers. Appendix D of the sponsor guidance set outs which documents you must keep.
Ensure you are correctly checking right to work for all employees and retain the appropriate evidence of the check on file. Please refer to our webinar on right to work and prevention of illegal working here for further information.
Ensure that the details of Key Personnel listed on your licence are always kept current and accurate. You must at all times during the validity of your licence, have an Authorising Officer who is a current paid member of staff, or engaged as an office holder, and based in the UK.
You must always have a Level 1 user listed on your licence who is an employee, partner or director of your business. In most cases, you must always have a Level 1 user listed on your licence who is a settled worker.
Changes to your business (e.g. change of address, name, ownership) must be reported to the Home Office within 20 working days.
Changes to sponsored migrants’ circumstances (e.g. certain absences, place of work, job title and/or description, salary decreases, end of sponsorship) must be reported to the Home Office within 10 working days.
Risks of non-compliance
Remember that the risks of being found to be non-compliant could include severe sanctions being levied against the business as well as personnel on the licence – the Home Office have recently announced plans to introduce harsher penalties for UK businesses who employ illegal workers, so failure to review your licence, ensure that it is in order, that you have performed the right checks and hold the documentation and information to enable the business to meet Home Office requirements could be costly. Being found to be non-compliant can be an expensive mistake and one which could severely impact a businesses ability to continue operating in the UK.
We recommend conducting a mock audit annually to ensure compliance. Please get in touch with one of our team to discuss.
Need more information about the above people and legal expertise? Talk to one of our lawyers: +44 (0)20 7628 2000
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