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Sponsor Licence Refusals: Causes and Solutions

When embarking on the journey of making a Sponsor Licence Application, the sponsoring company must understand the route(s) in which they wish to sponsor overseas nationals and the duties that come with being a sponsor. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the nuances of Sponsor Licence Refusals, providing insights and tips for those navigating the sponsor licence application process.  We explore the reasons why sponsor licence applications are commonly refused, and provide strategic advice to empower businesses with the knowledge needed to navigate the Sponsor Licence application process successfully.

Is the Sponsor Licence Application Refused or Rejected?

When deciding a sponsor licence application, the Home Office may either reject the sponsor licence application as invalid, refuse the application or grant the application with an A rating (or provisional rating for the UK Expansion Worker route). 

Invalid application

As we discussed in our post, Employer’s Guide to Appendix A Sponsor Licence Documents, most organisations are required to provide a list of documents in support of their sponsor licence application. For example, if your company is a Start-up, you must show that your company has a current, corporate bank account with a bank registered by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority in the UK. 

An example of an invalid application would include paying the incorrect application fee.  If you pay the incorrect application fee, the Home Office will reject your sponsor licence application and refund the application fee. For more information on the sponsorship costs for the Skilled Worker route, please refer to our earlier post here.

Once the issues have been identified and rectified, you can submit another sponsor licence application.

Application refused

An application for a sponsor licence may be refused on various grounds, such as:

  • Unspent convictions for a relevant offence by the key personnel, owner, director or any person involved in the day-to-day running of the business; 
  • Employment is not genuine;
  • No necessary human resources systems is in place to meet your sponsor duties;
  • Providing false documents or false information with the application;
  • No operating or trading presence in the UK;

If your sponsor licence application is refused, you may only be able to apply after the cooling-off period has elapsed.

Sponsor licence applications can be challenging and you should seek legal advice to ensure that your business has the correct documentation. Read about some of our sponsor licence success stories here.

When Can I Make Another Sponsor Licence Application?

If your application for a sponsor licence is refused, there is no right of appeal against the refusal. You may be able to request the Home Office to review the decision when the refusal is due to a caseworker error. The request must be sent within 14 calendar days from the date of the refusal letter.

As set out in our post, Cooling-Off Periods in Sponsor Licence Applications, you will need to wait until the cooling-off period has elapsed before making an application. The length of the cooling-off period will depend on the reasons for which it is imposed. For example, if your application has been refused due to your application being sent by a representative, there is no cooling-off period and you can apply again at any time. However, if your previous sponsor licence application was revoked, you would need to wait for 12 months from the date of the notice informing you that the licence has been revoked. In certain circumstances, the cooling-off period can be up to 5 years for numerous civil penalties and charges issued.

Tips for Preparing a Successful Sponsor Licence Application

We discussed the sponsor licence application criteria in our post, How Are Sponsor Licence Applications Assessed where we focused on the key areas including sponsor duties and key personnel. If your sponsor licence application has been refused, you will have to address the issues raised in the refusal letter and ensure that you meet the eligibility and suitability criteria. 

Sponsor Licence Eligibility Criteria

As set out above, your business must provide a list of supporting documents to demonstrate that your company is genuine and has been operating in the UK and meets the eligibility criteria. If you are applying for a UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence, you will need to show that your business has a UK ‘footprint’ but not already actively trading in the UK. 

Sponsor Licence Suitability Criteria

In order to meet the suitability criteria, the Home Office will look at your HR systems and how you will meet your sponsor duties. These duties include reporting any changes in the worker’s circumstances no later than 10 working days after the relevant change, keeping documents required in Appendix D, employing workers who are qualified to do the job, not employing illegal workers and not engaging in behaviour that is not conducive to the public good. 

The Home Office will also check that you have suitable key personnel to carry out the sponsor duties and access the Sponsorship Management System to manage the sponsor licence. The Home Office may carry out background checks on them to see whether there are any unspent criminal convictions or outstanding civil penalties.

It is vital that the role actually exists and does not contain job descriptions that have been exaggerated to meet the requirements. The Home Office guidance defines a genuine vacancy as:

A genuine vacancy is one which

  • requires the jobholder to perform the specific duties and responsibilities for the job and meets all of the requirements of the relevant route 
  • does not include dissimilar and/or predominantly lower-skilled duties 
  • is appropriate to the business in light of its business model, business plan and scale’

Do take note that there are specific salary and skill level requirements for the Skilled Worker, Scale-up and Global Business Mobility routes.

Compliance Visits

Before making a decision on your sponsor licence application, the Home Office may conduct an inspection to see whether you have a robust HR system to meet your sponsor duties and the information you provided in your application are accurate. 

We explained in our blog, How An Immigration Audit Can Safeguard Your Sponsor Licence, that an immigration audit is a mock exercise of checking your human resource system, policies and documents to ensure that you are ready for a Home Office compliance visit and how our immigration barristers can help in conducting an immigration audit of your business. This is a good practice to get your business ready especially if your previous sponsor licence application was refused.

Contact Our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance in relation to a Sponsor Licence application, contact our business immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or via the enquiry form below.


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