As a general point, the Home Office takes a very strict approach to sponsors’ obligations, which in combination with its wide discretion in interpreting the immigration rules, means that Tier 2 sponsors should be extremely vigilant to ensure that all the Home Office requirements are complied with without any delay.
A sponsor’s compliance obligations continue throughout the entire period of the licence validity and the Home Office can conduct audits (visits to sponsor premises) to check compliance with Tier 2 obligations. These visits occur without any prior notification. If the immigration officer finds that any of the sponsor obligations are not adhered to, their sponsor licence can be revoked. Revocation of the licence means that the sponsor cannot continue employing existing migrants and also cannot issue new certificates of sponsorship. The sponsor whose licence is revoked is barred from reapplying for a sponsor licence until 12 months have passed since the date of the Home Office letter notifying of the revocation. Loss of sponsor licence can therefore have significant impact on the sponsor’s businesses and the sponsored migrants.
Examples of compliance issues that may result in a licence being revoked are:
- employing a foreign worker without a valid work visa;
- failing to track migrants’ visa expiry dates;
- failing to notify the Home Office of the change in sponsor’s address and/or change in migrant’s work address;
- failing to keep the required records from the conducted labour market test;
- not issuing migrants with contracts of employment;
- not keeping migrants payslips to evidence that the salary stated in the certificate if sponsorship is paid; or
- failing to keep migrants’ detailed job descriptions.
Another important point to note is that there is no right to appeal from the Home Office decision revoking the licence. The only route to challenge the decision is to start judicial review proceedings. However, the hurdle to succeed in these proceedings is extremely high as the courts recognise the Home Office’s wide discretion and strict approach in ensuring immigration compliance. The court’s approach is well illustrated in the following statements in one of the judicial review cases:
- ‘the grant of sponsor status is a fragile gift, constant vigilance about compliance is a minimum standard required for sponsors’;
- ‘the burden of playing an active role in the support of immigration control is a heavy one’; and
- the Home Office is entitled to ‘review purported compliance with a cynical level of supervision.’
We regularly provide training for a sponsor’s key personnel as well as mock immigration audits. If you would like to discuss sponsor immigration compliance obligations or any other immigration matters in more detail, please do not hesitate to contact us.