Sponsor licence rejected or refused – what to do next and can you apply again

You submitted your sponsor licence application but a good few weeks later (usually within about 6-8 weeks) you receive a notification from Home Office that your application is rejected or refused.  If you find yourself in such circumstances then this article may assist you in understanding what the rejection or refusal means for you in practice, and what next steps you should take to obtain the licence.

Did Home Office make an error to reject or refuse your licence application

Following a rejection or refusal of any immigration application (including sponsor licence) the first thing you should do is to check if the Home Office has not made an error. Occasionally they may assess an application incorrectly, although it does not happen that often.

Home Office has a broad discretion within the immigration rules in assessing sponsor licence applications. This discretion has been acknowledged by the Courts in rare Court challenges to sponsor licence refusals by way of Judicial Review. The Courts went as far as to say that sponsor licence is not a right but a fragile gift. The grounds for Judicial Review are limited to illegality, irrationality and procedural impropriety. Judicial Review is different to the Appeal process. The conclusion is that it is better to prepare a good case when applying for sponsor licence and ensure that compliance is monitored during the licence validity, rather than rely on challenging Home Office decision.

There is NO right of Appeal against the refusal of an application for a licence. However, if you believe the refusal decision is the result of Home Office error because some evidence sent as part of your application was not considered, you can send an ‘Error correction request form’ to Home Office to request review of their decision. The request must be sent within 14 calendar days from the date of the refusal decision letter. Home Office aim to reply within 28 working days of the receipt of your error correction request form. The error correction process does not offer a full reconsideration of a decision to refuse a licence application, which in a nutshell means that no additional evidence can be provided and review is made on the basis of evidence you provided with your original application.

If there was no error in assessing the application on the Home Office side, then you will need to check if you can apply again and if so, when. Next time you apply you will have to ensure that you prepare a thorough and complete application.

Sponsor licence was rejected – what to do next

When Home Office rejects your sponsor licence application it means that they consider your application as invalid and they will normally refund the application fees you paid. Rejection usually occurs when you fail to provide all the required mandatory supporting documents and information OR you fail to pay the correct application fees.  

It may take about 6-8 weeks counting from when you submitted it online for the Home Office to inform you of the rejection. This unfortunately means that you lost 2 months to just find out that the merits of your application will not be considered by Home Office.

The good thing is that when your application is rejected there is no time period (called the ‘cooling off period’ by Home Office) barring you from reapplying. You can therefore resubmit your sponsor licence application immediately but this time you will need to provide a complete application with all the required mandatory documents, information and pay the correct application fees.

Sponsor licence was refused – what to do next

If you do not meet all of the eligibility and suitability criteria as stated in the Home Office guidance for the specific type of sponsor licence that you applied for, Home Office will refuse your sponsor licence application. For example, the salary that you intend to pay to your migrant worker(s) may be below the  minimum salary required for the specific visa type (e.g. for Skilled Worker visa it is usually not less than £26,200 but it may be higher depending on the job type).

As you may see from the above, the difference between rejection and refusal is that with the refusal the Home Office did assess your application and decided that you do not meet the relevant criteria to be granted the licence, whereas in rejection your application did not pass the validity checks stage and therefore did not even get to the stage when there is an assessment of its merits.

Can you resubmit your sponsor licence application immediately after refusal

If you apply, or reapply, while you are still subject to a cooling-off period, Home Office will automatically refuse your application, even if the reasons that led to the cooling-off period no longer apply.

The usual duration of the cooling off period is 6 months, unless one of the specific circumstances occurred in your case, when the cooling off period can be 12 months, 5 years or even indefinite.

Examples when there is 12 months cooling off period barring you from reapplying:

  • You previously held a sponsor licence and it was revoked (or it would have been revoked had you not surrendered it)
  • You have been issued with a civil penalty for employing an illegal worker

Examples when there is 5 years cooling off period barring you from reapplying:

  • you have been issued with 2 or more civil penalties for employing an illegal worker

Example when indefinite cooling off period barring you from reapplying:

  • You have an unpaid civil penalty or charge for any of the offences listed above and you are (or that person is) still liable once your or their objection and appeal rights are exhausted

New sponsor licence application after cooling-off period has expired

Before you reapply for the sponsor licence, you must ensure that the reasons Home Office refused your previous application no longer apply. The fact that the cooling-off period has expired does not mean Home Office will grant your application – you must fully meet the requirements set out for the specific type of sponsor licence that you wish to obtain for your business.

As part of the application process, a Home Office compliance officer may conduct a compliance check on you. If this happens, the compliance officer will undertake relevant checks to establish that you have the necessary systems and procedures in place to meet your sponsorship obligations. If they are not satisfied that you can fully meet your sponsorship obligations or you otherwise remain unsuitable to hold a sponsor licence, they will refuse your application again and you will be subject to a further cooling-off period.

Summary – rejection or refusal of licence

The key lesson following a rejection or refusal of sponsor licence application is to prepare a thorough and complete application when you apply again. At that point it may be beneficial to engage an experienced immigration lawyer with sponsor licence expertise, who will help you to ensure that all the boxes are ticked for the Home Office to grant you the licence when you reapply.  

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