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Sponsor licences: Compliance & the duties involved

17 August 2023

Holding a sponsor licence can be highly beneficial for many businesses dealing with recruitment and retention issues. However, this competitive advantage is counterbalanced by the substantial duties and requirements that must be upheld. Our business immigration experts take a closer look at the duties sponsor licence holders should be aware of.

What are the sponsor’s duties?

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) considers sponsorship a privilege rather than a right. Consequently, it imposes quite onerous duties and responsibilities.

The core duties every sponsor should be aware of include:

  • record-keeping
  • reporting
  • compliance with immigration laws
  • compliance with wider UK law
  • to act in public good.

A sponsor that fails to uphold one or more of these core duties faces the risk of having their licence downgraded, suspended or even revoked.


Sponsors are obliged to retain specific documents for each of their sponsored workers. The details regarding which documents to maintain and for how long are outlined in appendix D of the sponsor guidance.

Sponsors must also keep the documents used as a part of their licence application. This requirement applies for the licence’s duration.

The sponsor can choose whether to keep these documents in physical or electronic form – the only essential requirement is that the designated key personnel can easily locate and provide them to UKVI upon request.

Reporting duties

In general, there are two types of changes sponsors need to report to UKVI. These are:

  • changes to sponsored worker’s circumstances
  • changes to sponsor’s organisation.

Changes to a worker’s circumstances – such as when they stop working for the sponsor – must be reported via Sponsor Management System (SMS) within 10 working days of the relevant event occurring.

Changes to organisation, however, must be reported to UKVI within 20 working days. For example, these include:

  • changes in the sponsor’s key personnel
  • changes in the sponsor’s structure
  • changes of the organisation’s details (name, address, other contact details).

Sponsors must also inform the relevant authorities if they know or suspect that a sponsored worker has breached their conditions of stay or has been involved in terrorism/criminal activity. Such an event must be reported as soon as reasonably practicable.

Compliance with UK immigration laws and wider UK law

Sponsors are required to only employ workers who are appropriately qualified, registered or experienced to do the job for which they are being sponsored, and should only sponsor roles with a genuine vacancy. Any documents confirming this – including any certificates or references obtained for migrant workers – must be kept.

It is crucial to follow the latest UKVI guidance on prevention of illegal working in the UK and to carry out relevant right to work checks (and any follow-up checks if applicable). Sponsors should also always keep in mind employment legislation.

Significant trust is also placed on sponsors that they will not behave in a manner that is not conducive to the wider public good.

When do sponsor duties start?

A sponsor’s duties commence from the day UKVI grants them their licence and will continue until the licence is surrendered, revoked or made dormant.

Additionally, sponsors are responsible for each sponsored worker. The individual duties as to each migrant worker then start on the date they assign the worker in question with a Certificate of Sponsorship. This then lasts until they either cancel or withdraw their CoS or let UKVI know that the worker no longer works for them, or their permission expires/lapses.

What are the potential outcomes of breaching sponsor duties?

If UKVI finds the sponsor to be in breach of sponsor duties, this can lead to a reduction in the organisation’s licence rating, or the suspension or revocation of the licence. Apart from causing serious reputational damage, this can also put the jobs – as well as the immigration status of the sponsor’s migrant workers – at significant risk.

Training sessions

Our business immigration team provides various in-depth training sessions for sponsor licence holders, such as our compliance training for key personnel, SMS training for Level 1 and Level 2 users and many more.

Alternatively, we are happy to work with you to develop bespoke seminars on particular topics. Please get in touch with our highly rated team for more information.

If you are a sponsor licence holder – or are considering becoming one – and would like to know more or need assistance on a particular matter, please contact our business immigration experts.

Contact us

Our Legal 500-rated employment law & business immigration team are experts in guiding businesses of all sizes and backgrounds through a range of issues that may arise, including those related to sponsor licences.

Disclaimer: All legal information is correct at the time of publication but please be aware that laws may change over time. This article contains general legal information but should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please seek professional legal advice about your specific situation - contact us; we’d be delighted to help.
Klára Grmelová MGR (LLM Czech)
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