How to keep on top of sponsor licence compliance

As a sponsor you must keep on top of a host of compliance requirements to avoid enforcement action from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), civil penalties, reputational damage or costly illegal working sanctions.

Whether preparing an initial sponsor licence application, renewing a licence or auditing right to work procedures, we can align your processes with UKVI requirements, help HR departments with training and check your sponsor licence compliance.

Employers face increasing checks and sanctions for sponsor licence violations

UKVI may revoke, suspend or downgrade your sponsor licence if you fail to comply with sponsor duties. This could come about as a result of an inspection associated with an initial sponsor licence, an application to renew or, indeed at any point while you hold a licence to hire non-UK nationals. The Home Office department is becoming increasingly vigilant in its enforcement practices so it is worth keeping on top of your sponsor management and right to work practices.

Since pandemic measures have eased, there has been a marked increase in compliance visits by UKVI officers, as well as penalties and sanctions of employers. The latest Home Office statistics reveal increases in sponsor licence suspensions and revocations, especially for the majority of sponsor licences which are for Skilled Workers. This shows the importance of keeping on top of compliance requirements. Failure can result in license suspensions, revocations, costly illegal working sanctions, civil and criminal penalties, not to mention serious reputational damage. There is also a potential risk of employers facing unfair dismissal action if a work contract is terminated due to sponsor non-compliance.

We have recently heard increasing reports of UKVI contacting sponsors to do checks if they believe the Sponsor Management System (‘SMS’) has not been accessed for 12 months or where there are indications that the Key Personnel information on the SMS is not up to date.

As failure to ensure that the SMS is up to date is a breach of the sponsor duties, we strongly advise sponsors to access the SMS and to check and update the contact information if needed. Please contact us if you are not sure what to do.

We also recommend a regular sponsor licence audit.

We help many businesses by carrying out compliance audits to avoid repercussions such as sponsor licence suspension or revocation. To find out how we can help you please call us on 0207 033 9527 or email

We can provide on-site training on all aspects of complying with your sponsor duties including how to avoid falling foul of illegal working legislation. We will provide practical tips on making full right to work checks to avoid civil penalties and criminal sanctions, complying with Skilled Worker and Global Business Mobility (formerly Intra-Company Transfer) sponsor duties and challenging civil penalty notices.

We can help with the following common issues that sponsors face.

Sponsor Licence Record Keeping

Companies can commonly fall down on record keeping, should the UKVI request certain records. Documents must be held in the correct format for the correct period as per sponsor licence requirements and be made available should the UKVI ask for them.

Key Personnel on the Sponsor Management System

Firms with a sponsor licence must nominate an authorising office, a key contact and a Level 1 user, all of which have specific responsibilities. These are named in sponsor licence applications, and their details must be kept up to date on the SMS, otherwise the UKVI may downgrade, suspend or even revoke a sponsor licence if, for example, one of these have left the company without being replaced via the SMS, or you have no Level 1 users in place.

Licenced Sponsors’ Monitoring and Reporting Duties

Sponsors must ensure that they have systems to monitor sponsored staff and ensure they are complying with the requirements of their visa. Changes of circumstances must be reported within the time limit.

Right To Work Check Policies

There have been recent changes to how employers should conduct right to work checks on prospective and current employees. Rules have been updated to reflect a new post-pandemic move to digital, as well as evidential issues for refugees from Ukraine.

Firms run the risk of hefty civil and criminal penalties if they do not protect themselves with correct right to work checks. Following a hiatus during the pandemic, the Home Office has resumed compliance visits and official figures show a large rise in penalties, amounting to up to £20,000 for each member of staff illegally employed.

Human Resources staff can avoid this by ensuring full right to work checks are conducted in keeping with the latest Home Office guidance.

We provide specialist advice on the range of illegal working offences, best practices to avoid them, how to mitigate and report lapses and also how to respond if you fall short.

Click here for our quick guide to protecting yourself with right to work best practice, based on the latest Home Office guidance.

Company Mergers, Acquisitions, Changes of Circumstance

Our staff have many years of experience in helping employers with sponsor licence compliance issues arising out of change of company ownership, mergers, TUPE transfers or new branches. Any such organisational developments may give rise to sponsor compliance issues. They must be reported within the strict time limits and may require an organisation to re-apply for its sponsor licence.

Home Office Visits

Inspections have increased in frequency since the end of the pandemic, as have sanctions. All companies must comply with such requests from the Home Office (as must third-parties, such as clients, at whose sites sponsored workers are based). If sponsors have failed to meet requirements, penalties may follow, including licence downgrading and increasingly, licence suspensions and revocations.

We are very experienced at advising on such visits.

Sponsor Licence Suspensions and Revocations

Such sanctions can have serious implications for sponsors as well as sponsored staff who may find their leave to stay in the UK curtailed unless they can switch to a different sponsor or type of visa. They may also consider whether they have a case in employment law against an employer in such cases. Prospective staff set to travel to the UK may be left stranded if UKVI takes such sanctions against a sponsor.

Employers can also get saddled with costly action plans which must be completed before they may sponsoring further staff.

None of these are ideal situations to be in, but we can help employers negotiate all the above sanctions with the least disruption to business and employees.

Whatever issues a sponsor has to negotiate, we can help with all stages of the sponsor licence process, advise on compliance audits and help sponsors avoid serious penalties such as sponsor licence suspension or revocation. To find out how we can help you please call us on 0207 033 9527 or email