· News

Skilled worker sponsors face licence crackdown

The uptick in licences being revoked is linked to changes around visas for care workers, said lawyer Vanessa Ganguin

The number of skilled worker sponsor licence suspensions and revocations has markedly increased in the first quarter of 2024, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (13 June).

Between January and March 2024, the Home Office suspended 309 skilled worker sponsor licences and revoked 210. This represents a much higher level of activity than at any point since Brexit.

The uptick in licences being revoked is linked to changes around visas for care workers, explained Vanessa Ganguin, managing partner at Vanessa Ganguin Immigration Law.

She told HR magazine: “A large driver in increased licence suspensions and revocations is likely to be the situation for sponsored visas in the care sector, which have seen record numbers since Brexit.”

Read more: UK work immigration changes: What HR needs to know

From March 2024, care providers in England were told that they could not sponsor new care workers under the skilled worker route unless they are registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC). From the same date, newly sponsored carers could no longer bring their family members to the UK.

The measures follow a report from David Neal, former independent chief inspector of borders and immigration (ICIBI), which described the implementation of care visas as "shocking".

It found a case of 275 certificates of sponsorship being granted to a care home that did not exist, and 1,234 certificates being granted to a company that stated it had only four employees when given a licence. 

“This extremely critical report on visa management in the sector was filed with the Home Office last year, but the Home Office then withheld it from publication, before eventually publishing the report at a time they could take credit for having already taken steps to fix it,” Ganguin said. 

She added: “The home secretary announced additional requirements for sponsors in the care sector in England to be regulated by the CQC, which is  likely to have led to numerous suspensions and revocations once the new rules came in from 11 March 2024.”

The data also shows that 48,023 decisions were made in the year ending March 2024, compared with 30,295 in the year ending March 2023. 

Of these decisions, 37,197 licences were granted (61% higher than the year before), and 10,826 were not granted (including both applications withdrawn and those rejected).

Ganguin said: “It’s also worth noting that there have been significant increases in the number of organisations registered for sponsor licences, with a 22% increase in skilled worker licences in the last six months alone, so more licences may also have led to more revocations.”

Licence enforcement action can be very costly and disruptive, said Kelvin Tanner, partner at law firm Charles Russell Speechlys.

He told HR magazine: “All skilled worker licence holders should be aware of their sponsor duties and of the risk of enforcement action being taken against them for a failure to comply. This can include having their sponsor licence suspended or revoked, and where an audit uncovers instances of illegal working, it can lead to civil penalties of up to £60,000 per illegal worker.”

To avoid losing their licences, employers should remain up-to-date with policies, training and record-keeping, and ensure they are filling genuine vacancies, he said: “Before applying for a sponsor licence it is important that a company doesn’t overlook the comprehensive immigration policies and procedures that it needs to have in place to ensure compliance with its duties as a sponsor. 

“For team members involved in immigration and sponsor licence matters, the company will need to conduct training once a year and also review training and policies annually. 

“In addition to their usual focus on right to work checks, reporting and record-keeping, we have also seen a focus on the genuine vacancy requirement and a company’s compliance with employment law.

Read more: Sunak's visa plans will damage labour market, say experts

What immigration pledges have different parties made?



  • Reform the points-based immigration system to make it "fair and properly managed".
  • End long-term reliance on overseas workers by bringing in workforce and training plans for sectors such as health and social care, and construction. 
  • Crack down on employers or recruitment agencies abusing the visa system, and breaching employment law.



  • Reverse the decision to stop care workers from overseas bringing their families with them to work in the UK.
  • Review immigration legislation to expand the shortage occupation lists.



  • Freeze immigration, with the only exception being for essential skills, especially in healthcare. 
  • Raise the national insurance rate to 20% for foreign workers to incentivise businesses to employ UK citizens (essential workers and small businesses with five employees or fewer would be exempt).