Sponsorship licence compliance checks and what you need to know to protect your business

by | 30 May 2019

As a Sponsor License holder, the employing company has a responsibility to prevent any illegal migrant taking up employment with the company. In order to comply with the Immigration and Asylum Act (‘the Act’), the company is required to check every prospective employee’s eligibility to work in the UK and to obtain, retain and maintain documentary evidence. Sponsor licenses allow organisations to recruit migrants from outside the EU but they come with considerable and sometimes onerous duties for employers. Any failure to comply with sponsor licence duties can lead to a downgrade in user rating, suspension or revocation and/or a civil penalty, putting the jobs of existing migrants at risk.

In order to obtain a statutory excuse against the imposition of a civil penalty for employment of an illegal worker, all employers must keep a photocopy or electronic copy of all employees’ immigration status documents such as passports and identify information that show they are allowed to work in the UK. Original documents must be sighted, dated with a written (or stamped) confirmation that the original has been seen. This must be done prior to the commencement of employment and we also suggest these checks are conducted on the first day of employment.

To avoid any allegations of discrimination, it is recommended that checks are required of all individuals regardless of their background or nationality. A Sponsor Licence holder may be liable for civil penalty of up to £20,000 if it is found that they are employing someone who does not have the right to undertake the work in question. Also, it is a criminal offence to knowingly employ an illegal worker and you could face an unlimited fine and up to two years in prison.

The main areas of compliance that are required to be met are as follows:

  • Monitoring immigration status and preventing illegal employment
  • Maintaining migrant contact details
  • Record keeping
  • Migrant tracking and monitoring
  • Recruitment practices

The Home Office places significant trust on sponsors to ensure compliance within the guidance and in accordance with immigration rules: Tiers 2 and 5 guidance for sponsors. Complying with Sponsor License duties and responsibilities is a serious matter. Employers thinking about employing from outside the EU need to consider whether they have the necessary time, knowledge and HR systems required to meet compliance.

Avoid issues, scrutiny and penalty by keeping on top of your duties. A neglected license may cause issues at renewal stage. An immigration audit can also be extremely helpful in identifying potential issues before the Home Office audit team visits. If you are unsure about any aspect of your duties as a Sponsor License holder, here at Harbour HR we can provide assistance with these compliance checks by offering mini audits to ensure your HR systems are robust and meet the required guidelines.

Contact us for help with any issue raised in this article on +44 (0)20 3151 6794 or email


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