ArticleHigh Court overturns Home Office decision on sponsor licence revocation

In a significant ruling, the High Court has underscored the importance of procedural fairness in the Home Office’s decisions regarding sponsor licence revocations. The case of New Hope Care Ltd v Secretary of State for the Home Department has brought to light key procedural failings, leading to a successful legal challenge by New Hope Care Ltd, a care home operator.

Background of Sponsor Licence Revocation

New Hope Care Ltd, a care home operator, held a UK sponsor licence that allowed them to sponsor foreign workers under the Skilled Worker route, specifically within the Health and Care Worker sub-category. However, in October 2023, following a compliance audit that identified breaches of sponsor duties, the Home Office revoked their licence.

Challenging this decision, New Hope Care Ltd filed a judicial review application on four main grounds:

  1. Irrationality: They argued the revocation decision was illogical considering the nature of the alleged breaches.
  2. Misdirection: They claimed the Home Office misinterpreted the term “based in the UK” regarding their Authorising Officer’s location.
  3. Procedural Unfairness: They asserted they weren’t given a fair chance to address the concerns before the revocation.
  4. Global Assessment: They contended the Home Office failed to consider the wider impact of revoking the licence on employees and residents.

Key Findings and Court Decision

The court found merit in the claim of procedural unfairness, ruling in favor of New Hope Care Ltd on this ground. The Home Office had only attempted one follow-up visit after the initial audit identified issues. Moreover, the licence was revoked despite the Authorising Officer requesting a rescheduled interview due to being detained outside the UK. This lack of opportunity to respond was deemed procedural unfairness.

On the grounds of irrationality, the court did not find the decision inherently illogical, though specific breaches might be debatable. Regarding misdirection, the court agreed that “based in” refers to a usual place of residence, but temporary absences would not disqualify the Authorising Officer.

The court did not rule on the matter of global assessment since it found in favor of New Hope Care Ltd based on procedural unfairness.

Implications for Care Providers and Sponsor Licence Holders

While the decision does not automatically cancel New Hope Care Ltd’s sponsor licence revocation, it mandates that the Home Office must follow a fair and lawful procedure, potentially including a re-interview with the Authorising Officer before potentially revoking the licence again.

This ruling highlights the critical importance of procedural fairness in Home Office decisions related to sponsor licences. For care home operators and other sponsor licence holders, the case underscores the necessity of seeking professional advice if facing enforcement action to ensure that the Home Office acts in accordance with its obligations.

Moreover, the case clarifies that a temporary absence from the UK would not necessarily disqualify an Authorising Officer from being “based in” the country.

On the broader issue of global assessment, the judge noted that serious breaches of sponsor licence compliance cannot be mitigated by considering the impact on visa holders and care home residents. This point, however, remains subject to conflicting case law and a pending appeal. If established in future challenges, it could mean that the Home Office may not have to factor in the interests of residents or the NHS when deciding to revoke a licence.

The New Hope Care Ltd case serves as a crucial reminder for care home providers and sponsor licence holders to ensure their immigration compliance procedures, systems, and documentation are robust and ready for inspection at any time. As the Home Office intensifies its scrutiny, adhering to procedural fairness and maintaining compliance will be essential in safeguarding sponsor licences.

If you are concerned about the implications of this decision on your organisation’s right to work procedures and policies, or on your personal immigration status in the UK, consult our immigration compliance experts for tailored advice and support.

Get in touch:  For a comprehensive understanding of your options or queries on UK immigration matters, contact GigaLegal Solicitors at 02074067654 or click here to book a no-obligation consultation with an immigration expert.