The United Kingdom’s Border Agency (UKBA) is forwarding e-mail reminders to UK companies registered with the Sponsor Management System (SMS) to submit a timely renewal application of their Sponsor License to avoid becoming ineligible to host foreign national workers.
28 November 2012 marks the four-year anniversary of the UKBA’s introduction of the Points-Based System (PBS) that replaced the traditional Work Permit application scheme.
As part of the PBS, UK companies that wished to host foreign national workers were required to become Licensed Sponsors with the UKBA from November 2008 and to designate an “Authorized Officer” (e.g., usually a senior staff member or director-level employee) who is responsible for all authorized company users (e.g., usually an HR representative or UK Registered Migration Agent granted a “Level 1 user” access to the SMS).
The UKBA is now reminding and recommending to Authorized Officers and/or Level 1 users that UK companies should submit their Sponsor License renewal applications at least three months in advance of their current license’s expiration date.
ACTION ITEMS FOR EMPLOYERS
Given the importance of renewing a license in order to receive Certificate of Sponsorship (Cos) allocations for applying on behalf of foreign workers, designated company representatives are reminded that as part of the renewal application, the UKBA may elect to undertake an onsite audit of the company’s immigration compliance files and confirm there are no illegal workers present at the company’s site.
1. Establish your Sponsor License Expiry Date
If you have been applying for Tier 2 visas for your employees from 28 November 2008, your license will expire no earlier than 27 November 2012. Otherwise, provided your Sponsor License is renewed in a timely fashion, all Tier 2 visas obtained under your company’s current Sponsor License will expire four years from when they were approved.
- 2. Renew and Pay for your License online on time
You will be able to apply to renew your license 3 months before it expires. If your license is not renewed before the expiry date it will be cancelled. You will not be able to sponsor new hires and all currently-sponsored employees will either have their duration of stay curtailed and will be required to depart the UK, or, if eligible, they may apply to change from Tier 2 status to another visa category.
Only your allocated Level 1 Users can renew your License. It is important that you identify who has Level 1 access to your existing License. Renewal applications and payment must be made via your account on the Sponsor Management System.
- 3. Check and Update your Company Details online
When you originally applied for your Sponsor License you were required to register some basic details regarding the company structure, size, location and personnel details. It is your responsibility as a Sponsor to ensure that this information is immediately updated when such changes occur.
Check to ensure these details are correct before renewing your license to avoid delays or complications with your application.
- 4. Check and Update your Key Personnel online
When you originally applied for your Sponsor License you were required to allocate Key Personnel who have set roles in managing your Sponsor License.
These roles include:
– Authorizing Officer
– Key Contact
– Level 1 User(s)
– Level 2 User(s)
The Key Personnel link will provide you with further details regarding their responsibilities. The UK Border Agency communicates mainly by email. If your details are not up-to-date you will not receive important correspondence such as advising you of your license expiry or if they intend to Audit your company’s HR files and system.
- 5. Check that you are compliant with your Sponsor Duties
The UK Border Agency will audit all Sponsors to ensure that they have: (1) applied for Tier 2 visas in line with the immigration rules and (2) robust HR systems and processes to track and retain documents and details for employees subject to immigration control.
Audits may be announced (typically with one week’s notice), but unannounced visits are common. We expect that there will be rise in Audits at the point of license renewal.
If you are found to be non-compliant, or have employed an illegal worker(s), you may have your License downgraded or revoked. This could result in all sponsored workers having their visas curtailed and, in the worst case scenario, civil penalties may be brought against the company and/or individuals involved.
Caveat Lector | Warning to Reader
This content is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or final guidance for any immigration matter. Readers are reminded that a country’s immigration laws and requirements may change with little to no advance public notice. Questions regarding specific immigration matters should be addressed to your Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist. This was prepared by Lavinia Pascariu, Associate Global Immigration Counsel, Pro-Link GLOBAL.