The Home Office has published transparency data for the 3rd financial quarter of 2016. Included in this data is information relating to the numbers of sponsorship licences applied for, numbers of Home Office visits in connection to new licence applications, numbers of sponsorship licences suspended and the number of licences that have been revoked.
‘Revocation’ means that the company is removed from the register of sponsors and can no longer sponsor non-EEA staff under Tier 2 and/or Tier 5. Any staff who are being sponsored will have their visas cut short to leave them with 60 days to find alternative sponsorship. A revocation will also mean a 12 month ban for any owners, directors or other operational managers being able to apply for another licence.
A revocation will have its roots in a Home Office compliance visit uncovering areas of non-compliance. This will most likely be followed by the suspension of the licence if the concerns aren’t immediately addressed by the production of documents that weren’t available at the visit for example. Once a licence is suspended the company has another short period of time to address the issues. Failing to do so will lead to either the downgrading of the licence from A-rated to B-rated or revocation. Once a licence is revoked, there is no right of appeal and the only options are in the administrative court.
The statistics in summary
Looking back at the last year, the number of Tier 2 licence applications has continued to fall. The number of applications for Tier 2 and Tier 5 jointly, and for only Tier 5 has remained consistently low. The data suggests that the Home Office is carrying out pre licence visits for 16% of new applications.
The number of Tier 2 licences being revoked fell from 227 in Q3 of 2015 to 117 by the end of Q1 of 2016 – a 52% drop. Since this low, revocations have crept up and are steadily on the increase. By the end of Q3 of 2016, the number of Tier 2 licences that were revoked in that period was 175.
While the number of licences being revoked has increased, the number of licences being suspended has conversely fallen. Apart from a slight increase in Q1 of 2016 (when the number of revocations dropped to its lowest), the numbers of licences being suspended has fallen from 217 in Q3 of 2015 to 175. Given the normal relationship between suspensions and revocations, it is expected that when suspensions are high in one quarter, a rise in revocations might follow in the next quarter. Here you get an indication of how long it takes for a suspension to become a revocation and the fact that it would appear that most suspensions end up as revocations.
For some sponsors, what starts as a few minor compliance issues can snowball into unappeallable revocation of the sponsorship licence and sponsored staff losing their jobs. Practical tips for staying on top of compliance and being ready for an audit are:¬
- Audit your own documents and/or have a third party audit the documents for you. The easier it is for you to present the documents that the Home Office will request, the easier the process will be.
- Consider the accessibility of required documents. All of the documents are detailed in the Tier 2 and 5 Sponsor guidance and Appendix D of the Immigration Rules, so it is easy to ensure that all required documents are ready ahead of time.
- Test the procedures you have put in place to meet tracking, monitoring and reporting obligations regularly for process weaknesses.
In the event of a Home Office compliance visit that does not go well sponsors are well advised to think carefully about how to respond and seek professional advice. Revocation is not an appealable decision; whilst there are other legal means with which to challenge the decision to revoke a licence, these legal recourses, even if successful, will not enable a company to continue sponsoring migrants through the process. Therefore it is crucial that preventative measures are taken and advice is take swiftly responding to a licence being suspended.