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12 February 2024

The Sponsor Licence check: an important guide

Find out about Sponsor Licence checks and how your business can remain compliant with the rules.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Man inspecting documents with a magnifying glass to carry out a Sponsor Licence check

Through UK Visas and Immigration, the Home Office carries out a Sponsor Licence check of employers or educational institutions who hold them.  

These checks can either be announced beforehand, or unannounced, so they will just turn up on any day and carry out a compliance check. You should always be ready, and ensure that you are complying with the rules.

There will be a guaranteed check carried out when you apply for your Sponsor Licence. Checks after your application has been successful and you have been given a licence will either be announced or unannounced.

In our guide on the Sponsor Licence check, we will tell you all about what you need to do to remain compliant with the rules.

The Sponsor Licence check before you are given a licence

Before you are given your Sponsor Licence, the Home Office will either visit in person, or conduct an interview remotely. 

The person carrying out the interview to see if you comply with the rules will be checking for the following:

  • Your business has a genuine role that meets the Sponsor Licence requirements if you plan on sponsoring people on the Skilled Worker Visa route
  • That you have human resource (HR) systems in place to effectively carry out your duties; for example, to keep records and report on their activities at work, such as if they do not turn up to work one day
  • Whether there is any evidence that you as a sponsor will be any threat to immigration control 
  • That the number of overseas workers you plan on sponsoring is suitable for your business
  • If any part of your application was a cause for concern or missing, such as missing documents, then they will be checked to ensure all of your documents are valid and in order

You will also need to be prepared to answer any questions to the best of your ability regarding the above, as well as provide supporting evidence.

The Sponsor Licence check after you have got your licence

Once you have your licence, the Home Office is likely to carry out visits to check that you are carrying out your duties properly. You will either be informed in advance of the Sponsor Licence check, or they will send someone unannounced.

During these visits, they will check the following:

  • That you are carrying out your HR duties; for example, monitoring, reporting and recording the work activities of your sponsored employee
  • Sponsored individuals are meeting the conditions of their leave to remain
  • That sponsored workers have been given genuine vacant jobs that meet the Sponsor Licence and Skilled Worker Visa requirements
  • If the number of Certificates of Sponsorship or Confirmation Acceptance of Studies that you requested during your application is still needed
  • Whether your sponsored employee or student is still complying with their leave to stay in the UK
  • If your business is still actively trading

Once again, you must be prepared to answer any questions that the officer sent to carry out the Sponsor Licence check may have. 

If you are informed of the visit beforehand, you must ensure that there is someone present with the necessary knowledge and experience to answer the officer’s questions. 

It is also likely that the officer will ask your employees some questions, as well as check your records.

All of the above should be fine as long as you ensure that you continue to comply with the rules.

Key personnel for managing your sponsorship

As part of your sponsorship, you will need to assign four roles to key personnel. They do not have to be four separate people. 

Two of the roles will need to have access to the Sponsorship Management System (SMS).

The four roles are:

  • Authorising officer
  • Key contact
  • Level 1 user
  • Level 2 user

There must always be a Level 1 user in place. The Level 1 and Level 2 users are the only ones who should have access to the SMS.

What happens if I do not pass the Sponsor Licence check?

Failing to be compliant with the rules can result in a few different things happening to your licence, depending on the situation.

The actions that can be taken against you are:

  • If it was a check before your licence was given to you, then you will not receive your licence
  • Your licence can be downgraded from the A-rating they start with, to a B-rating; this is the first step to give you time to amend any errors if it is a minor issue (visit the Government’s website to learn more about the Sponsor Licence rating system)
  • Suspension can happen if the UKVI believes you are not complying; they will suspend you whilst they enquire further
  • Serious breaches of the rules can result in your licence being revoked; for example, if you are seen as a threat to immigration control

What can I do to restore my Sponsor Licence?

If your licence has been downgraded

If your licence has been downgraded, you will just need to fix any outstanding issues that the UKVI have with your activities as a sponsor. 

Initially, the UKVI will send you a letter to which you will have 20 days to respond; you should show any evidence to support why you should not be downgraded.

If your licence is still downgraded, then you will have to pay a fee within 10 days of being notified for an action plan to be made. This will show what actions you need to take. You do not have to pay the fee, but you will lose your licence.

Once you have received your plan, you will have three months to resolve your issues. After, you will either have your licence restored to an A-rating, have it revoked, or if you solved the issues but new ones are found, then you will have a new action plan. 

If your licence has been suspended

Like with a downgrade, you will receive a letter which you will have 20 days to reply to if your licence has been suspended. During this, you can provide evidence to try and show how you have complied with the rules. 

Based on the evidence you provide, the UKVI will either:

  • Restore your licence
  • Downgrade your licence to a B-rating and provide you with an action plan (see the previous subsection)
  • Prevent you from using any unused Certificates of Sponsorship
  • Revoke your licence

If your licence has been revoked

There is not much you can do if your licence has been revoked, as there is no right of appeal. Before you can apply for a licence again, you must wait at least 12 months.

How we can help

Our expert law team can help you with your application for a Sponsor Licence and guide you through the whole process.

Book a free 10-minute consultation to talk to a member of our team and see how they can help you. Once you have had your free consultation, you can book a paid consultation that can last either 30 minutes, or an hour. 

The team member that you first have a consultation with will act as your point of contact throughout the whole process, and will answer any questions you may have.

Get in touch with us today if you need our services.

Ready for assistance?

If you have any questions, or want to book an appointment with one of our legal experts, contact Woodcock Law today. Call us on +44 (0)20 7712 1705 or email

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