The UK Border Agency is currently overhauling the way it monitors and controls migrant workers, requiring UK-based employers who wish to employ foreign nationals to join a register of sponsors and then to take responsibility for record keeping, reporting, compliance, cooperating with the authorities and duties specific to the type of migrant workers it employs. Under the points based system the focus has shifted away from companies applying for work permits in respect of individuals and specific vacancies, to them applying on their own behalf to go on the register of approved sponsors and then being able to issue an agreed number of certificates of sponsorship, which will assist workers from abroad gaining entry to the UK.  


The process of becoming a sponsor involves completing an online registration and application process. The Agency may then make compliance checks to see whether the organisation meets its requirements. This will be done by a visit, usually, but not always, by prior arrangement. Organisations that have no evidence of abuse, and have all the systems in place to meet their duties under the scheme, will be given an “A” rating on the register.  

Sponsors will have to nominate an Authorising Officer (who may not be a representative from outside the organisation and must be a permanent member of staff) and a key contact within the organisation. They can then allocate Level 1 and 2 user status to other individuals, including representatives, who will administer the system and assign certificates of sponsorship to migrants. They will have responsibility for keeping records of all migrant workers and reporting to the Agency if a migrant worker goes missing or does not turn up for work.  

“B” rated sponsors  

Sponsors which do not satisfy the Agency that they have all of the necessary systems, but whose behaviour is not considered serious enough to have their application refused will be given an action plan with a timescale for improvement, and a “B” rating. The maximum period that a sponsor can spend subject to an action plan is 12 months. Whilst on the register with a “B” rating sponsors will be likely to be subject to more frequent and exacting inspections by the Agency. Any sponsor which is still “B” rated after 12 months will lose its licence. The register and sponsor ratings will be publicly available.  


Dishonest or incompetent sponsors will have their licences cancelled and may be subject to on-the-spot fines for each migrant worker illegally employed. These fines can be up to £10,000 for each migrant worker who is knowingly illegally employed. The details of employers who have been fined along with numbers of illegal migrant workers and the amount of the fine levied are published regularly on the UK Border Agency’s website.


There is a fee for joining the register of between £300 - £1,000, and once registered employers will be required to pay £10 or £170 for each certificate they issue to a migrant worker.