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    Rise in Sponsor Licence Suspensions and Revocations: Causes and Consequences

    A sponsor licence allows UK businesses to employ skilled workers from outside the UK under the Skilled Worker route. It is a critical component for companies needing to fill roles with international talent. However, holding a sponsor licence comes with stringent responsibilities and compliance requirements.

    The UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) has recently intensified its compliance actions, resulting in a significant increase in the suspension and revocation of sponsor licences. This trend is alarming for businesses relying on sponsoring skilled workers. From January to March 2024, UKVI suspended 309 and revoked 210 sponsor licences, marking a stark increase in enforcement activities aimed at curbing immigration system abuse.

    The recent uptick in compliance actions by UKVI has raised eyebrows across the business community. The surge in licence suspensions and revocations reflects the agency’s renewed focus on monitoring and ensuring adherence to immigration laws. For businesses, this means heightened scrutiny and a need for meticulous compliance with UKVI regulations.

    Changes in Immigration Rules

    Before April 2024, sponsor licences were valid for four years, necessitating periodic renewal applications. These renewals often triggered audits by UKVI, designed to verify ongoing compliance before extending the licence. However, since 6 April 2024, sponsors whose licences were set to expire after this date received automatic extensions for ten years. The elimination of renewal requirements has possibly freed up UKVI resources, leading to more compliance audits.

    In April 2024, the salary threshold under the Skilled Worker route increased from £26,200 to £38,700 – a 48% rise. The Immigration Salary List (ISL) also replaced the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), reducing the number of occupational codes eligible for reduced salaries from 53 to 23.

    These changes are part of the UK’s broader strategy to control migration, which makes it more difficult to obtain visas based on salary. This strategy is projected to lower net migration by at least 300,000 annually, contributing to fewer visa applications and freeing up UKVI to focus more on compliance issues.

    In February 2024, the renewed emphasis on immigration compliance was clear when the fine for employers hiring illegal workers more than tripled. It jumped from £15,000 to £45,000 per illegal worker for the first offence and from £20,000 to £60,000 for repeat offences.

    Implications

    The suspension or revocation of a sponsor licence can have severe consequences for businesses. It not only affects the ability to hire new international talent but also impacts existing sponsored employees, who may face uncertainty about their immigration status. Furthermore, it can damage the reputation of the organisation and lead to financial losses.

    Sponsors who fail to conduct proper right to work checks and establish a statutory excuse for each employee may also face fines and civil penalties for employing illegal workers.

    Recommendations

    In light of UKVI’s intensified focus on immigration compliance, we advise sponsors to:

    • Acquaint themselves with their sponsor licence obligations as mandated by UKVI
    • Maintain awareness of record-keeping and reporting requirements, areas where sponsors frequently falter in compliance
    • Ensure the accuracy and currency of key personnel and details on the sponsor licence
    • Implement stringent right-to-work check procedures with UKVI guidelines
    • Be audit-ready at all times by keeping documentation and processes updated and compliant

    We provide an array of UK immigration and compliance services, including audit preparation and staff training. If you have any doubts about the compliance of your sponsorship licence, please contact us.

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