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Licence And Registration Please

Licence And Registration Please

“It must be understood that the grant of [sponsor] status is a fragile gift. Constant vigilance about compliance is a minimum standard required for such sponsors. The burden of playing an active role in the support of immigration control is a heavy one” McGowen J in London St Andrew’s College v SSHD

In The Queen (on the application of Raj and Knoll Ltd) v SSHD, one of the first cases to deal with Tier 2 sponsor licences under the Points Based System, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave repeated those words and suggested that careful consideration is given to them. Holding a sponsor licence brings with it very specific sponsor duties. As Raj and Knoll Limited (R&K) discovered, failing to comply with those duties can have severe repercussions.

The Case

R&K were a nursing home provider based in Kent with a number of sponsored workers on their books. Things started to go wrong when the UK Border Agency (now UK Visas and Immigration) turned up to their registered address for a Licence Renewal Visit to find a newsagents (and a presumably very confused shopkeeper), instead of a nursing home.

It transpired that while the shop had been owned by R&K’s Authorising Officer at one stage, it had been sold ‘some time ago’. Crucially, it had never been the place of work for any of the 72 sponsored workers on R&K’s licence, contrary to the information detailed on their Certificates of Sponsorship.

Unsurprisingly, the UKBA followed up with an unannounced visit, and unearthed a catalogue of concerns. Top of the list was R&K’s failure to keep records that demonstrated they had carried out a Resident Labour Market Test where required.

Their licence was initially suspended, then ultimately revoked. Their application for judicial review of that decision was rejected by the court.

Impact

While R&K’s failings were towards the more extreme end of the scale (the court described their attitude as ‘sloppy and cavalier’), the case serves as a cautionary tale to all licensed sponsors and a reminder of their sponsor duties:

  • Firstly, do not forget about your day-to-day record keeping obligations. The Home Office can, and increasingly do, drop in unannounced. If you can’t prove that you’ve completed the resident labour market test, for example, that is likely to spell trouble for your licence.
  • Secondly, make sure that you know what day-to-day situations trigger your reporting obligations, and that you are reporting in time. A number of seemingly minor issues can trigger a reporting requirement.
  • Thirdly, “minor” breaches can have major consequences. The court made clear that where there is any infraction of the requirements imposed by the government’s guidance, then revocation is to be expected. Even where the Home Office have discretionary grounds to revoke, a licence will be revoked unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Having your licence revoked can have serious consequences, not just for your business but for your workforce (and their dependants) as well. If you lose your licence, you lose the ability to employ any of your sponsored workers and they will have to find an alternative sponsor or immigration route quickly, or risk being deported. That’s not to mention the risk of negative publicity, or the large fines that can be imposed when a business employs someone without the right to work.

Licensed sponsors are advised to take stock, remind your HR teams and line managers of your sponsor duties and revisit your policies and procedures to make sure your standards of compliance are not slipping.

Our business immigration team can provide training and audits, and would be delighted to assist if you’d like to discuss any of the points raised.

Andrew Clark
Trainee Solicitor

LChalmers