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High Court on how to save a sponsor licence


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R (SRI Lalithambika Foods Ltd) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2019] EWHC 761 (Admin) contains a practical tip to help rescue a sponsor licence from suspension or revocation. Charles Bourne QC, sitting as a deputy High Court judge, explains that receipt of a suspension letter presents a sponsor licence holder with an opportunity to respond fully to each ground. It’s important to do this even if some of the points have previously been challenged in correspondence or during a compliance visit.

Suspension letter: the last chance saloon

A South Indian restaurant holding an A-rated Tier 2 sponsor licence received an unannounced compliance visit. The Home Office notified the sponsor of 14 breaches of the Tier 2 and 5 sponsor guidance, triggering suspension and subsequent revocation of the licence. The sponsor responded to the letter and initiated proceedings, but submitted its evidence haphazardly over the course of 18 months, some of it arriving late.  The sponsor then alleged that it was deprived of the opportunity to deal with any of the allegations.

Charles Bourne QC dismissed the claim and explained in detail precisely how the sponsor failed on every allegation. Most importantly, he provided a useful steer on how to save your sponsor licence:

  1. Sponsors must keep records which are comprehensive, accurate and clear. Just as importantly, they must produce those records when asked to do so.
  2. A response to a suspension letter is likely to be the last effective opportunity to deal with any concerns. In such a response a Claimant must prove its case on every point, even where it believes that it has already done so at a compliance visit or in correspondence.
  3. If it fails to do so, then disputing the facts in judicial review proceedings is inherently unlikely to remedy the omission, because the Court primarily reviews a decision on the basis of the information available to the decision-maker and also because… disputes of fact in judicial review must usually be resolved in the Defendant’s favour.

Sponsor status is a fragile gift

This case is not ground-breaking by any means, but in addition to the practical tip, it provides a helpful reference to some of the landmark cases surrounding sponsor licences and sponsor duties.  

The start of the judgement recites the crib sheet of sponsorship principles from R (Raj and Knoll) v SSHD [2016] EWCA Civ 770.  Familiar buzzwords are observed in the concluding paragraphs where Charles Bourne QC refers to sponsor status as a “fragile gift”, reminiscent of McGowan J in London St Andrews College v SSHD (2014) EWHC 4328 (Admin).  

We will shortly be published a summary of useful takeaways from these and other landmark cases on corporate immigration. Sign up to our business immigration newsletter to be alerted when it comes out.

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Pip Hague

Pip Hague is a Senior Practice Development Lawyer at Lewis Silkin.