Your organization has applied for and been granted sponsor licence. Now it is the time to manage the day to day operations and start issuing Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS). In order to do so, your organization has to sign into the online sponsor management system (SMS).
SMS is an electronic system designed to help sponsor licence holders to issue CoS certificates, and to keep abreast of their sponsor duties and obligations. One of those duties is to fill the positions of Authorising Officer, Key Contact and Level 1 user, and keep them active throughout the licence validity. The most important Key Personnel position is the Authorising Officer. Optionally, sponsor organization can also appoint level 2 user(s), a person whose functions and actions on SMS are limited. All those key position for sponsor licence, are called Key Personnel.
It is important to remember to replace the outgoing post holder who fills one of those functions with another person. We explain more about sponsorship duties and compliance in our other article here.
What is an authorising officer
Authorising Officer (AO)is the key post that has to be filled by any organization that applies for any type of sponsor licence from UK Home Office. AO is responsible for the actions of staff and representatives who use the SMS management system and overlooks the overall immigration compliance by the sponsor organization. Sponsor licence holder organization must have AO appointed throughout the entire validity of the licence.
The person chosen for the AO role has to be a permanent employee or an office holder at the sponsor organization and has to be based in the UK. There are also several suitability (‘good character’) restrictions on staff filling the key roles for sponsor licence and managing the SMS account within your organization.
In general, to be appointed as AO or in other Key Personnel role for the licence, the person needs to have clean criminal record (no unspent convictions) and not have been involved in any type of illegal activity or have been sanctioned in regard to their dealings with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). For a full list of suitability checks consult this website.
Other roles, key contact and level 1 user
Apart from the Authorising Officer, sponsor licence holding organization has to have at least one Level 1 user appointed throughout the validity of the licence. This person will be responsible for the day to day management of your licence and will have access to your SMS account.
Key Contact, a person who is your main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), also has to be appointed during the validity of your licence.
The Key Contact and Level 1 roles can be filled by your permanent member of staff, office holder at your organization, or by a UK based representative. It is important to note that none of the Key Personnel roles can be filled by someone who is not based in the UK. So, for example, none of the roles can be filled by your HR staff who are based outside UK. This is vital point to remember for international organizations who may have their main HR personnel located at another countries.
The Key Contact and Level 1 user(s) are also subject to similar suitability checks by Home Office as the Authorising Officer. It is therefore chose the persons carefully.
Level 2 user
You can also appoint a level 2 user, who has limited responsibilities and the actions the Level 2 can perform on SMS are restricted. The person can be a temporary worker or an agency worker supplied to you or a third party organization engaged by you to deliver HR functions or a UK based representative.
Summary points on Key Personnel
All your Key Personnel positions, except the Authorising Officer, can be filled by your UK based representative qualified to provide immigration advice or services. Authorising Officer has to be either your employee or an officer holder at your organization, for example a company director. However, you must also keep in mind that you need to have at least one Level 1 user who is both considered as settled in the UK and is either your employee or an office holder at your organization. Finally, as we pointed this above, you have to replace outgoing Key Personnel to ensure that there is at least one active post holder for each of the Key Personnel roles.