If your organisation has a sponsorship licence to employ migrant workers in the UK, you are required to meet certain compliance duties. This includes notifying the Home Office of certain changes relating to your organisation within certain timescales.
UKVI’s post-licence priority service allows sponsors to apply for faster consideration of certain types of requests for sponsor change of circumstances, to avoid lengthy delays when submitting changes for Home Office approval.
However, sponsors should note that UKVI processing and service provisions continue to be affected by delays due to the pandemic and increased service demand following the introduction of the new immigration system.
What is the post-licence priority service?
UK sponsors employing overseas nationals on either the Worker or Temporary Worker routes have a number of ongoing obligations, including a duty to notify the Home Office of any changes to their organisation or to those responsible for managing the sponsorship process.
Under the rules, if there are any significant changes to your own circumstances, you must report these within a period of 20 working days.
Examples of reportable sponsor licence changes include a change to your business address or changes in your key personnel. The key personnel include your Authorising Officer, Key Contact and Level 1 user.
Where a change needs to be reported under the rules, your Level 1 user will be required to access your account using the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) and use the ‘request changes to sponsor details’ function.
Having completed the necessary action, and submitted any documentation required in support, you may then be able to prioritise consideration of this request by submitting an application via email using the post-licence priority service.
This service can be used to prioritise consideration of a number of different requests to register a sponsor licence change, including:
- additional Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) allocation
- renewal of annual CoS allocation
- adding a new Level 1 user
- changing your Level 1 user
- replacing your Authorising Officer (AO) or Key Contact (KC)
- amending the details for your current AO or KC
- adding a representative
- amending your organisation details – moved to new premises.
How long does the post-licence priority service take?
Under standard processing times, requests for sponsor change of circumstances can take up to 18 weeks to be decided. If approved, a request to register a change using the post-licence priority service could be considered within 5 working days. The 5-working day period will begin from the working day after the date payment for the priority request is made or, where a submission sheet is required, from the date this attachment is received.
If you’ve forwarded physical documentation by post, and submitted your request through the SMS, your case should still be considered within 5 working days.
You may not receive a decision within the target turnaround time if your request is complex or extra checks are required. If this is the case, your Authorising Officer will be notified and a request made for further information. For this reason, regular checks must be made of their email, including their junk mail. If any additional information isn’t received within the time specified, the request to register a sponsor licence change may be rejected. In these circumstances, you will not be eligible for a refund of your priority request fee.
A refund will only be made if consideration of your request is delayed for other reasons outside of normal case-working processes, such as for a technical error.
Once the sponsor change of circumstances request has been considered by a caseworker, the outcome of this request will be sent via email to the key personnel listed on the licence. However, even where a request is accepted for faster consideration, the post-licence priority service does not guarantee that your request to register a change will be approved.
Who can use the post-licence priority service?
To be eligible for the post-licence priority service, you must be a fully active licensed sponsor on either the Worker and Temporary Worker immigration routes with an A-rating.
When you apply for a sponsor licence, if your application is approved, you’ll get an A-rated licence. However, your licence may be downgraded to a B-rating at a later stage if you don’t meet your ongoing obligations as a sponsor. In this instance, you will not be allowed to issue new CoS until you’ve made improvements and upgraded back to an A-rating.
Equally, you will not be eligible to use the post-licence priority service, where this enhanced service only offers faster consideration for change of circumstance requests for A-rated sponsors.
To be approved for a priority request, you must also satisfy the following requirements:
- you must have submitted a sponsor change of circumstances request via your SMS account prior to emailing the priority service mailbox
- you must have printed the submission sheet if your request is either to replace the Authorising Officer or appoint a representative
- if the request is for additional CoS, they must be for undefined CoS only, where any defined CoS requests will be rejected without a refund of your fee
- you must submit a fully completed application to the priority service team
- your request must not be in progress or have been allocated to a caseworker.
If you’re a premium sponsor you will not be eligible for the post-licence priority service. The premium customer service offers an enhanced level of support for organisations employing migrant workers, including a dedicated account manager who will provide tailored advice and support. Premium sponsors should contact their account manager instead.
How do you use the post-licence priority service?
Once your sponsor change of circumstances request has been submitted via your SMS account, you can email the priority service mailbox for a fast-tracked decision. You will need to attach a completed Worker and Temporary Worker priority request form. Your request form should be sent to: PostLicencePriorityService@homeoffice.gov.uk. You will also need to send any relevant documentation and, in some cases, an electrically signed submission sheet.
When you request a change via the SMS, a submission sheet will be produced as a PDF document if a signed declaration or any other documents are needed to validate your request. If your request is to replace your Authorising Officer or to appoint a representative, you’ll need to attach the submission sheet to your priority request. This is in addition to any other supporting documents. If you’re not sure what documentation you need to provide, you can check the Worker and Temporary Worker priority request form for guidance.
You can submit your documents electronically by attaching them to your priority request email, along with your completed form. You can scan or photograph your documents, but you must ensure your files are in PDF, JPEG, PNG or Word format, their descriptive titles have 25 or fewer characters, and the images are of sufficient quality to be read.
You can apply for multiple priority requests, provided these requests fall within an eligible case type, although these must be on the same licence. Multiple requests for different sponsors on the same email will not be considered. A priority request will also not be considered if sent outside of the post-licence priority service operating times. The priority service is only open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays.
A maximum of 60 priority service requests will be accepted each day, although the Home Office may still be running a limited service because of COVID-19. Any amendments to the daily allocation limit are usually communicated through the SMS message board.
If your priority request has been successful, you will receive an email from the priority service team to advise you of this decision, along with further instructions. A second email containing a payment link will also be sent. You will then have just 72 hours from when you receive the second email to make payment, including weekends. If payment isn’t received within this time, your request will expire and you will need to apply again to be considered for this service.
The Home Office will try to let you know the outcome of your priority application, but if you don’t receive a response you can assume your request has not been accepted. There may be a number of reasons for not being approved, including if you’ve submitted a priority request outside operating times or the daily allocation limit has been reached.
Your priority request may also be unsuccessful if it’s not for one of the specified changes listed under the Worker and Temporary Worker Priority Service Guidance or is already under consideration. It’s therefore vital that you apply for a fast-tracked decision as soon as your Level 1 user has submitted a change of circumstance request via your SMS account.
How much does the post-licence priority service cost?
The charge to use the post-licence priority service is £200 per request. The payment is for consideration of the request for a fast-tracked decision and does not guarantee that your underlying request for a sponsor licence change will be accepted.
You can apply for multiple priority requests, although you will need to pay a fee for each one. There are certain circumstances when you may have to complete more than one action on the SMS to notify the Home Office of a change in circumstances. For example, if you report a change of address, you may also need to report a change to the working address for your key personnel, where you must request each change separately.
In limited cases, changes will automatically update in your SMS account once you have reported them. This includes a change to your main or head office address, as well as a change to the address of your Authorising Officer, Key Contact or Level 1 user, provided their new address matches your main or head office address or, in the case of a Key Contact or Level 1 user, the address of your representative. Otherwise, any change must be considered by a caseworker and, if a fast-tracked decision is required, payment made for a priority request.
What are the consequences of failing to comply with the duty to notify?
Your licence may be downgraded, suspended or revoked if you do not fulfil your responsibilities as a sponsor. Your CoS allocation can also be reduced. This could result in significant and costly consequences for your organisation, including the cost of an action plan to upgrade your licence, the inability to recruit new overseas talent, or even significant disruption to your business through the loss of existing sponsored workers.
It’s therefore vital that you comply with your ongoing obligations as a licensed sponsor, including the duty to let the Home Office know about any change in your circumstances.
Full guidance on how to submit a sponsor change of circumstances request can be found in the online Home Office SMS Manual on managing your sponsor licence. Securing expert legal advice on how to manage your sponsorship duties can help you to remain compliant.
DavidsonMorris are UK business immigration specialists. We support employers with all aspects of corporate immigration to meet their UK talent needs through international recruitment and global mobility.
Home Office processing remains impacted by backlog and delays due to the pandemic, affecting availability and leadtimes of priority services. If you have a question about post-licence processing and priority service availability, and for tailored guidance, contact us.
Post-Licence Priority Service FAQs
What is the change of circumstances priority service for sponsor licence holders?
The ‘priority change of circumstance service’ is for sponsors wanting to prioritise certain requests to register a change using the sponsorship management system. If approved, a priority request to register a change could be considered within 5 working days.
How much is the post-licence priority service?
The fee to use the post-licence priority service is set at £200 per request. There are no limits on how many priority requests can be made by a sponsoring organisation, although they must be on the same licence.
What changes do sponsors need to notify the Home Office of?
Sponsors must report any significant changes in their own circumstances within 20 working days. This could include, for example, a change of owner. They must also report any change in details, like their address or allocated key personnel roles.
Last updated: 16 September 2021
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