UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) have announced changes to the Sponsor Management System (SMS) which should make it: (i) faster for employers who use the SMS to process certain types of requests and (ii) potentially more cost effective in some cases due to the reduced need to use the priority service. We provide an overview of the changes below.
What is the SMS?
The SMS is the online system that lets sponsors carry out day-to-day activities and report any changes to UKVI. It is also used to assign Certificates of Sponsorship to migrant workers who wish to come to, or stay in the UK to work.
What is changing?
Replacing Authorising Officers, Key Contacts and adding Level 1 Users
UKVI have indicated that from 23 March 2023 requests submitted from the SMS to replace an Authorising Officer, a Key Contact or add a new Level 1 User will be fulfilled immediately, subject to certain criteria being met:
- The sponsor licence must be active and A-rated (i.e. the sponsor has a current licence and is not subject to a sponsorship action plan.)
- The postcode for the new Authorising Officer, Key Contact or Level 1 User must match the postcode of the main organisation or head office address (or, for Key Contacts and Level 1 Users, the postcode of a legal representative organisation that the sponsor has said is acting on their behalf).
This is good news for employers as it will allow instant changes to their key personnel in most cases. Previously this could take up to 18 weeks unless £200 was paid to use the priority processing service (where available).
Auto-renewal of annual allocations of Certificates of Sponsorship
UKVI have announced that A-rated sponsors with an active sponsor licence in one of the routes listed below will have their annual allocation of Certificates of Sponsorship renewed automatically if it is due to expire within three months of 23 March 2023. This means that eligible employers no longer need to submit an annual request to renew their allocation as standard.
The routes eligible for automatic renewal are:
- Skilled Worker (for undefined Certificates of Sponsorship only)
- Global Business Mobility (GBM) - Senior or Specialist Worker
- GBM- Graduate Trainee
- GBM- Service Supplier
- GBM- Secondment Worker
- Minister of Religion
- International Sportsperson
- Charity Worker
- Creative Worker
- Government Authorised Exchange
- International Agreement
- Religious Worker
- Scale Up
Sponsors will still need to apply to renew their allocation if it expires more than three months after 23 March 2023 or has already expired, but the following annual allocation will be automated.
The automated allocation will grant a sponsor the same number of Certificates of Sponsorship they were assigned the previous year. For example, if 10 out of 15 available Certificates of Sponsorship were assigned in their 2022/23 allocation, their 2023/24 allocation will be automatically set at 10. A request will need to be made to increase the allocation as was previously the case. See the SMS user manual for details on how to do this.
Further information on submitting these requests and the obligations on sponsors to keep their information up to date on the SMS can be found in the Sponsor Duties and Compliance guidance and the SMS user manuals.
For more information on any of the issues discussed in this blog, including with submitting requests on the SMS and using the priority service, please contact Elaine McIlroy or Erin McLafferty.