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Licence Rating for UK Visa Sponsorship

UK-based employers intending to hire foreign workers from South Africa must obtain an A-rated sponsor licence before they can issue certificates of sponsorship.

For more information on sponsor licence ratings, including how to apply for a certificate of sponsorship and advice on getting A-rated, speak to one of our immigration lawyers at IAS.  Call us at 0333 363 8577 or contact us online.

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    What is an A-Rated Sponsor Licence in the UK?

    An A-rated sponsor licence is awarded to UK employers or organisations, also known as sponsors, who meet the requirements set out by the Home Office for recruiting foreign workers into the UK.

    If you are an employer intending to hire a foreign worker from South Africa, you must first apply for a sponsor licence. If the Home Office determines that you are compliant, you will be awarded an A rating, and your business will be listed in the register of licensed sponsors.

    Your A-rated licence indicates you have the right systems and policies to comply with sponsorship duties. It also means you can issue a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) to a potential employee. The foreign worker will then use the CoS to apply for a Skilled Worker Visa or a Temporary Work Visa to enable them to work in the UK.

    However, if you do not continue to meet the sponsor licence requirements, you may get downgraded to a B-rating. With a B-rating, you will be unable to sponsor new workers to the UK until you have made improvements and upgraded back to an A-rating.

    If you have concerns about your sponsor licence rating or sponsorship duties, speak to a lawyer with expertise in corporate immigration in the UK at 0333 363 8577.

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    How to Get an A-Rated Sponsor Licence

    Obtaining an A-rated sponsor license is critical to employing skilled workers outside the UK. However, many sponsor licence applications get rejected for failure to meet the requirements.

    Here are key steps to successfully get an A-rated sponsor licence:

    Meet the Eligibility Criteria

    Before submitting a sponsor licence application, check that you meet the eligibility requirements. To be eligible, you must not:

    • Have any unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences, fraud, money laundering, and other crimes.
    • Have had your sponsor licence revoked in the last 12 months.

    Check Your Systems and Processes

    When you submit a sponsor licence application, the UKVI may visit your business to determine if you are capable of sponsoring foreign workers. This visit is called a site audit.

    The audit will include a thorough examination of your HR systems, including your policies, structures, and documents. Consider evaluating your current HR framework before submitting your application to ensure that you are well-prepared for the pre-licence inspection.

    Appoint Key Officers

    You will be required to appoint people to manage sponsorship within your organisation. These key officers must be equipped to manage the sponsorship process through the Sponsorship Management System (SMS).

    The key roles include:

    • The authorising officer: The authorising officer must be a senior and competent individual responsible for other employees who use the SMS and ensuring compliance with sponsorship duties.
    • The key contact: The key contact is your organisation’s main point of contact with UKVI.
    • The level 1 user: This officer is responsible for all day-to-day management of your licence using the SMS.

    Your key officers will undergo background checks to determine if they are suitable for the roles. If any one of them has an unspent criminal conviction or has broken a law, your application may be rejected.

    The key officers must be full-time employees and based in the UK, except you’re applying for a sponsor licence to hire a UK Expansion Worker.

    Make Your Application

    You’ll need to apply online for your sponsor licence. The type of licence you’ll apply for will depend on the kind of worker you intend to hire.

    A Worker licence will allow you to hire workers in any skilled employment while a Temporary Worker licence will allow you to hire workers on a short-term basis. You can also choose to apply for both licences at the same time.

    After completing your online application, you must send in the submission sheet and supporting documents to the email address provided on the submission sheet.

    How to Fulfill Your Responsibilities as an A-Rated Sponsor


    When you become an approved A-rated sponsor, you must meticulously fulfil some Home Office requirements to maintain your sponsor rating. Some of your responsibilities include:

    • You should check that each foreign employee you’re hiring has the necessary skills, qualifications, or professional accreditations to do the job. You must keep copies of their documents or certifications showing these skills.
    • You should only assign certificates of sponsorship to workers when the job is suitable for sponsorship.
    • You inform the UKVI if your sponsored workers are not complying with their visa conditions.
    • You must comply with UK employment law for each sponsored job.

    Monitoring and Record Keeping 

    As part of your responsibilities, you must have HR systems that allow you to monitor the immigration status of your sponsored workers.

    You must keep records of their contact details and relevant documents, including proof that you’ve carried out the right-to-work checks. You must also track and record their attendance at work. This information must be available in the event of a Home office inspection.

    Meeting Your Reporting Duties 

    You must also report any changes to the UKVI through the SMS within a set deadline. For instance, if your employee stops coming to work, you must report it within 10 days.

    If there are any significant changes to your business, you must report them within 20 days. Some of these changes may include if your business becomes insolvent, merges, or is involved in a takeover. You must also tell UKVI if you change your address or the roles of your key officers.

    Complying with the UK’s Immigration Laws

    It’s also important to continuously comply with UK immigration policies for employing foreign workers to retain your sponsorship rights.

    Before issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship to a foreign worker, you must first recruit domestic candidates for the role and show proof that you couldn’t get a UK-based employee.

    Also, you should carefully vet your foreign employees and ensure their documentation accurately conveys genuine details of their skills and experience. Furthermore, employees’ pay must fulfil agreed contractual terms in line with industry wages for the role.

    We would be happy to assist you for UK visa sponsorship, contact us today. Contact Us

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      What Can Downgrade Your Business to B-rating?

      Your A-rated licence risks getting downgraded to B-rating status if you breach your sponsor duties. Some breaches that can result in a downgrade include:

      • Failure to comply with compliance checks.
      • Receiving a penalty for failure to pay VAT within the last five years
      • Getting  a civil penalty that impacts their ability to perform their duties.

      How to Regain an A-rated Sponsor Licence

      Getting a letter downgrading your sponsor rating is heart-wrenching but it’s rarely intentional!

      How Can IAS Lawyers Help?

      Navigating the intricacies of acquiring and preserving A-rated licences can be complex.

      At Birmingham Immigration Lawyers, we are committed to helping you with obtaining your A-rated licence. Our attorneys will provide you with personalised guidance on how to strengthen compliance processes and controls, liaise with Home Office caseworkers to resolve concerns and appeal unfavourable decisions that seem unjustified.0333 363 8577

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                Frequently Asked Questions

                A worker B rating in the UK refers to when a licensed sponsor of foreign talent receives a rating downgrade from A-rated status to B-rated by the Home Office due to non-compliance with sponsor duties. B-ratings limit an organisation’s visa sponsorship capacity for 6-12 months until resolving deficiencies.

                The Skilled Worker visa does not itself receive a rating. Sponsors must secure their A-rated licence under the Skilled Worker sponsorship tier demonstrating accountability before being permitted to sponsor Skilled Worker roles.

                Sponsor licences are assigned either an A-rating indicating full compliance and sponsorship privileges, a B-rating meaning identified deficiencies that provisionally limit sponsorship capacity, or suspended/revoked status for persistent non-compliance barring sponsorship. All sponsors should strive for A-rating status.