Sponsorship licences: clock is ticking for employers
Author: Jennifer Featherstone
Employers holding sponsorship licences which allow them to lawfully employ migrant workers must make sure they do not miss an important renewal deadline which is fast approaching.
Why do employers need sponsorship licences?
If you wish to employ skilled migrant workers under the Points Based System then you will need a sponsorship licence in order to do so. Whether you're a multi-national organisation wishing to employ existing overseas employees directly in the UK or whether you've spotted talent overseas but that individual currently has no link to your business, you will need a sponsorship licence if you wish to employ these individuals in the UK.
Do I need to worry if my organisation already has a sponsorship licence?
Yes! Sponsorship licences only last for four years. The renewal of an organisation's sponsorship licence will either be due on 27 November 2012 or on the four year anniversary of when the licence was granted (if later).
Renewal is not an automatic process and employers must therefore be ready to renew. If the expiry of your employer's licence is soon, you may have already had emails directly from the UK Border Agency ("UKBA") reminding you of the expiry date.
You must renew your sponsorship licence if you wish to continue to:
- Sponsor existing migrant workers, and/or
- Issue new certificates of sponsorship.
What happens if we miss our renewal date?
You must renew your licence before it expires. If it is allowed to expire current workers' leave to remain will be curtailed to a period of 60 days.
If an application to renew is made subsequently, your employer will be treated as if it were a new Sponsor. The effect of this is that to continue to employ existing migrant workers, a resident labour market test must first be conducted and the affected employees will have to be treated as new recruits for the purposes of sponsorship.
How much does renewal cost?
The fee for renewing is £500 for a small organisation and £1,500 for every other organisation (if renewing your Tier 2 licence). This is the same as for new licence applications.
How do you make a renewal application?
The renewal application must be made by a Level 1 User via the Sponsorship Management System Account. Employers should make sure that the Level 1 user is not on leave on the date of expiry as renewal will not be possible if there is nobody to access the Sponsorship Management System.
Our recommendation is to make the renewal application early; at least one month ahead of the expiry date as this allows some additional time in case something goes wrong and your application is rejected. If you have applied well in advance, you can then make a secondary application within time and before the expiry of your existing licence if required.
It is also important that you check your licence details to ensure that these are up to date. If they are not, you must submit requests for changes before you apply to renew your sponsor licence.
Whilst you are not required to send your supporting documents to the UKBA at this stage, it is worth ensuring that you can easily locate these documents as they may be requested as part of the renewal application. If the UKBA does make a request, you only have seven calendar days to provide the information or your application will be rejected.
The UKBA may want to visit your offices to ensure that your HR practices and files are up to scratch. Remember that you have ongoing sponsorship duties and the UKBA can check that you are complying with these at any time.
While renewal of an organisation's sponsorship licence should be a relatively simple administrative task, the consequences of a small mistake in the process which holds up the application could have a really significant impact on the employer's workforce. Employers need to get organised sooner rather than later and take advice early - time (and the UKBA) wait for no man (or woman)!
Did you know that Shoosmiths has a specialist business immigration team? If you require any assistance in making a renewal application, please do get in touch with them. Find out more here.