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Sponsor duties


Compliance with sponsor licence duties

Immigration expert Gillian Burns talks you through how to comply with sponsor licence duties in this short video.

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What are my ongoing duties as a sponsor?

1. Record keeping
Sponsors must ensure they keep clear employment records and operate thorough HR processes. Should UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) make a compliance visit, they may ask to see all relevant documents in relation to sponsored migrants and would expect these to be produced immediately.

2. Reporting
Sponsors are under a duty to report any changes in the sponsored migrant’s circumstances, including:

  • termination of employment
  • change of immigration status (for example being granted leave to remain as a spouse of a British citizen)
  • promotion, change in core duties or change of salary
  • change of place of work.

A sponsor must also notify UKVI if there any major business changes, such as a takeover, merger or de-merger.

These reports must be made within a specified timeframe, usually 10 working days.

Members of our Sponsor Management Service can access free content regarding their reporting and record keeping by contacting us.

3. Compliance with relevant laws
This includes all UK employment law, as well as (for example) complying with data protection and any other regulatory requirements on the particular industry the business operates in.

Prior to an individual starting work all employers (not just those sponsoring migrants) have a duty to ensure individuals have the right to work  in the UK. UKVI will expect a sponsor to be able to produce right to work copy documents on demand. Sponsors will also be expected to have a system to keep track of visa expiry dates of their sponsored employees.

4. Ensuring sponsorship is for a genuine vacancy
Any migrant sponsored under a Skilled Worker visa will be assigned a certificate of sponsorship for a specific vacancy. The vacancy must be a genuine requirement for the business and the migrant should not be employed to undertake any other role within the business other than the one specified in the certificate of sponsorship.

5. Co-operation with UKVI
UKVI takes a proactive approach to ensuring sponsors’ compliance with their ongoing obligations. As such, it will expect the sponsor to allow it to conduct the visit and for any request for information to be complied with within any stated time limits.

We provide training to businesses on their sponsor duties to ensure compliance. For further information, please see here.

How is sponsor compliance monitored?

Having a sponsor licence comes with a number of ongoing obligations imposed by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). Failure to comply with these may result in fines and the potential revocation of an employer’s sponsor licence, which has serious implications for the migrant employees sponsored by the employer.

UKVI operates a system of compliance checks including:

Given the onerous and complicated nature of this area and the serious repercussions of failure to comply, we would urge you to contact a member of our Immigration Team should you want further advice and guidance in this area.

What happens during a UKVI compliance visit?

One way in which UKVI monitors compliance is by visiting sponsors’ premises to check that they are aware of and are complying with their duties.
These visits can be announced or unannounced and can be at any of your offices, branches or client sites.

During a compliance visit, Enforcement Officers will usually:

  • speak to the Authorising Officer and other Key Personnel
  • speak with sponsored workers
  • check a selection of employee personnel files to ensure compliant right to work checks have been carried out, and
  • check your HR systems and processes in place to monitor sponsored workers.

Our Immigration Team can carry out a compliance audit at your premises to ensure that you are complying with your sponsor duties and will not fall foul of an unannounced compliance visit. For more information please click here.


What are the consequences for non-compliance?

If a sponsor does not comply with its duties under the sponsor licence, it runs the risk of having its licence suspended whilst it is being investigated by UKVI and subsequently downgraded or revoked.

What happens if the sponsor licence is suspended?

During a suspension, the sponsor will be prevented from assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship to any new hires for the Skilled Worker or ICT visas. However the sponsor will still be required to comply with its obligations to the sponsored workers.

Where UKVI suspends a licence without further investigation, it will set out in writing the reasons for suspension and the sponsor has 20 working days to respond by setting out any mitigation. UKVI will then provide a final decision.

If UKVI undertakes a full investigation, it will write to the sponsor informing it of this and the reasons for suspension. The sponsor has 20 days to respond in writing. After the investigation has concluded UKVI will again set out its reasons for suspension which the sponsor is invited to reply to before UKVI provides its final response.

What happens if the licence is downgraded?

Where UKVI believes that a sponsor is failing to comply with its duties, it can downgrade the licence from A-rating (which is given when the licence is obtained), to a B-rating. The following breaches will result in a mandatory downgrading:

  • a sponsor has certified that a migrant will not claim state benefits, but that migrant does do so, with the sponsor’s knowledge
  • if it is found by compliance officers that a sponsor is not using a process or procedure necessary to comply with their sponsor duties
  • where UKVI has asked for information or documentation from a sponsor and they fail to provide this within the given time limit.

In all other cases, UKVI has discretion to downgrade a licence.

Where a licence is downgraded a sponsor cannot assign a certificate of sponsorship to a migrant until it has shown that it is committed to making improvements by entering into an action plan devised by UKVI and paying the associated fee. The action plan will be in force for up to three months.

At the end of this period, UKVI will carry out a compliance visit. If it can be shown that all of the requirements of the action plan have been met, the sponsor’s A-rating will be re-instated however if this is not the case, the licence will be revoked.

What happens if the sponsor licence is revoked?

There are a large number of instances where UKVI will mandatorily revoke a sponsor’s licence. These include where a sponsor has provided false information to support its application or has employed a migrant that does not meet the relevant skill level.

If a sponsor licence is revoked, this will be effective across all routes under which the sponsor is registered, meaning that all sponsored workers will no longer be sponsored and will have their visas curtailed. The sponsor must also take steps to end their employment.

If the revocation is mandatory, the sponsor cannot appeal the decision and will not be able to re-apply until a cooling off period has come to an end. The only option for organisations to have their licences reinstated is to pursue judicial review through the courts.

We provide specialist training sessions for sponsors to help ensure that you can continue to meet your ongoing obligations as a sponsor and we can advise you if your licence has been suspended due to suspected non-compliance with sponsor obligation. Get in touch or look at our services if you would like to discuss how we can help.

What happens if a visa is curtailed?

When a sponsor licence is revoked, UKVI will curtail any sponsored migrants’ permission to stay in the UK, usually to 60 days (or less if the migrant has fewer than 60 days leave remaining). If UKVI believes that the migrant was complicit in the breach, it will curtail permission to stay in the UK with immediate effect.

During this period, the individual will either need to make a new visa application before expiry of the curtailment period or leave the UK.

Services, audits, training and prices

About the Sponsorship Management Service

As a registered sponsor of Skilled Worker and Global Mobility migrants you have a wealth of obligations and duties to UK Visas & Immigration and failure to comply can ultimately lead to your licence being revoked.

Have peace of mind from as little as £200 per month

Let our business immigration experts take away that risk and strain by being named as Legal Representative on your sponsor licence, as well as having day-to-day involvement as a Level 1 User of the Sponsor Management System.

Our service includes:

  • Submitting reports to UKVI via the SMS in relation to:
    • sponsored migrants, including absences, termination of employment, salary changes
    • key personnel, including changes to named personnel and contact details
    • the organisation, including changes to contact details, size and structure
  • Preparing and submitting applications for renewal of undefined Certificates of Sponsorship
  • Preparing and submitting applications for renewal of the sponsor licence
  • Access to guidance for sponsors on key personnel, record keeping and reporting duties
  • Preferential pricing on training packages and immigration audits
  • Updates on matters affecting your sponsor licence

Contact us or click here to find out more.

Skilled Worker Sponsor Management training course

We run an in-depth training course on Sponsor Management for Skilled Worker sponsor licence holders. This half day course is aimed at members of HR and Management and those who are Key Personnel named on the sponsor licence. This training, previously delivered at your premises but available to be delivered online, covers:

  • the current immigration landscape
  • the roles of the organisation’s Key Personnel
  • the Sponsor Management System
  • Skilled Worker visa sponsorship requirements – skill and salary level and genuine vacancies
  • Certificates of Sponsorship – what these are and identifying the appropriate type
  • the Immigration Skills Charge
  • record keeping and reporting duties as a sponsor, and
  • the future for UK immigration sponsorship.

Alternative courses are also offered including use of the Sponsor Management System.

Prices for our training courses start at £1,500 plus VAT and can be delivered in-house to your staff.  To discuss your immigration training requirements or the above courses, please contact us.

Right to Work training

Our immigration solicitors provide Right to Work training for HR and Recruitment teams and those who are responsible for carrying out right to work checks on employees. Using practical examples and case studies, the course is designed to up-skill your staff and ensure compliant right to work checks are completed. This training can be delivered at your premises and covers:

  • the history of illegal working legislation
  • the groups of individuals who are subject to right to work checks
  • the statutory excuse – what it is and how to obtain it
  • how to carry out a compliant right to work check
  • types of right to work documentation commonly encountered
  • right to work checks for EU nationals in light of Brexit, and
  • civil penalties and responding to Home Office enquiries

The above session is a guide and bespoke courses can be built around your requirements.  Prices for our training courses start at £1,500 plus VAT and can be delivered in-house to your staff or online. To discuss your immigration training requirements or the above courses, please contact us.

Immigration compliance audit

Correctly managing your organisation’s Senior or Specialist Worker sponsor licence and retaining copies of all of the relevant documents is an onerous but important task.

If you are concerned that the organisation is not on top of this, or you want peace of mind that your reporting and record keeping is up to date, or perhaps you have a pending visit from a Home Office Immigration Compliance Officer, a member of our expert immigration team can carry out a thorough compliance audit for you.

This typically includes:

  • attendance at your offices (where possible)
  • review of the organisation’s sponsor licence
  • interview with a member of the Key Personnel responsible for the sponsor licence
  • review of your HR systems and processes
  • review of all sponsored Senior or Specialist Worker and and Tier 2 (General) holder’s personnel files
  • sample review of employee right to work checks and procedures in place, and
  • provision of report and action points.

Prices start from £2,000 plus VAT.  Contact us to find out more.


Given the fast pace of change, we would stress that this information is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

As a hub, we have included references to articles and explainers from third parties. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

Our immigration team

Flora Mewies

Flora Mewies

Partner | Employment

Leeds and Manchester

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Roisin Patton

Roisin Patton

Partner | Employment


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Gillian Burns

Gillian Burns

Associate | Employment


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Natalie Payne

Natalie Payne

Solicitor | Employment

Leeds and Manchester

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Isabelle Cernis

Isabelle Cernis

Solicitor | Employment


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