The Application Process
In order to be considered and approved to become a community sponsor, you must complete the application form, which you can download from the Home Office website. Do make sure you save a copy so that you can return to this as your resettlement plan comes together.
How will the Home Office assess our application?
The Home Office will assess the evidence you provide in your application form/resettlement plan, policies and any other documents that you submit to support your application. The Home Office might also carry out checks on personnel and could visit you to assess your application in more detail as part of a pre-arrival visit. In this section, we’ll explain what these checks and visits can be like. We’ll also explain what to expect when the Home Office reaches a decision on your application.
Checks on personnel
The Home Office carry out checks in order to ensure that your group and your lead sponsor are fit to resettle a vulnerable family. This is an important part of protecting the resettled families.
The checks that the Home Office carry out include checks against the Home Office’s records and against the police national computer, or its equivalent in Northern Ireland. The Home Office may make these checks when considering your application and it can repeat the checks after your application has been approved.
If the information obtained via these checks suggests that your group or your lead sponsor are not fit to assume the responsibility of resettling a vulnerable family then the Home Office may refuse your application or revoke your approval. Reasons that you might be considered unfit to act as a community sponsor include, but are not limited to: the provision of false information, criminal convictions, or immigration offences.
The Home Office might visit you before a decision on your application is made. If the Home Office decides to visit you, they’ll contact you in advance to agree a date. Visits allow the Home Office to make a more detailed assessment of your application. Some of the things that the Home Office might check are that:
- the information you have provided is accurate;
- you are able to support a resettled family;
- your safeguarding policies and procedures are appropriate; and
- the accommodation you intend to provide is suitable
Your Local Authority may be invited to attend your pre-approval visit. This is a brilliant opportunity for you all to meet with one another, ask any questions and build on the relationship that will be so important once a family has been resettled by your sponsor group. Sponsor groups have told us how helpful and positive they have found these visits to be.
If you meet all of the criteria, your application will be approved. If your organisation has not been allocated a resettled family after six months, your application will be reviewed and you may be asked to submit a new application.
Approval in Principle
If your application has been submitted, but your group are still awaiting raising funds, or finding accommodation you will be approved in principle subject to the fulfilment of these. Once you have found property and given your Local Authority the opportunity to consent to this (they may choose not to do this, but you should give them the opportunity) you will resubmit your application form with the housing section filled out. If you have been awaiting raising the full amount to gain full approval, you will be asked to submit a letter from your finance officer/lead to confirm the money is available. Full approval will follow.
In the unlikely event that you don’t meet all of the criteria for sponsorship, then your application will be refused. You will receive a written explanation from the Home Office explaining the reasons why they have refused your application. You can’t appeal this decision. You can make a new application, but the Home Office won’t consider the new application until 180 days have passed since a decision was made to refuse your previous application.
What happens after your application is approved?
Once the Home Office has fully approved your application, there will still be a number of duties that you will need to undertake before you are ready to welcome a resettled family.
- Completing the Property Offer Form (POF) this will be sent to you by the Home Office team and the team will ask you to complete details on the property you will provide as well as the services on offer in your area. This form will be used to assist in the matching process which will identify a suitable family to be resettled
- Signing the agreement with the Home Office You will need to sign a formal agreement with the Home Office. This agreement will set out your responsibilities and those of the Home Office. You can find a sample agreement on the Home Office website. It’s a good idea to read this agreement prior to submitting your application.
- Attending a sponsor induction workshop You must attend a preparation workshop on sponsorship before you welcome a resettled family. This is an important opportunity for you to learn how to properly prepare for the family’s arrival, ask any questions that you might have, and meet other community sponsor groups so that you can share advice and tips.
- Allocating a family for resettlement It is the Home Office’s role to identify a suitable family to be resettled by your sponsor group. They will propose the family to your group and to your local authority. Your group and the local authority will usually be expected to confirm to the Home Office within five working days whether the proposed family can be accommodated. You should consider the case carefully, and whether you can accommodate their needs. It is absolutely ok to say "no"; the family will still be resettled and this decision will not count against you. The family to be resettled will be notified after you confirm whether you can accommodate them. The Home Office will organise flights and will agree an arrival date with you – it is usually around six weeks after the family has been notified. Although you don’t need to organise the flights yourself, you do need to be at the airport to greet the family. You also need to make sure that your group is ready to deliver your resettlement plan. You will be provided with information about the family so that you can tailor your preparations to their specific circumstances. You can find out more about the information you will receive relating to a refugee family in our pre-arrival guidance. The Home Office ensures that security checks are carried out on everyone who will be resettled to the UK. The Home Office will also arrange for the resettled family’s visa and their Biometric Residence Permit.
- Arrival You’ll be at the airport to meet the family when they arrive in the UK. Then you’ll begin to deliver your resettlement plan.
What are your obligations after your application has been approved?
Record keeping and privacy
You must make sure that you keep records and copies of the resettled family’s key documents. This includes their:
- UNHCR registration
- Entry Clearance Document
- Biometric Residence Permit
- National Insurance Number
- NHS number
Maintaining the privacy of the resettled family is very important. It is your responsibility to ensure that data is held securely, in accordance with the Data Protection Act (DPA). Find out more about the DPA here.
Protecting the privacy of the family also means that you must not issue anything to them that would mean that strangers or a passersby would be able to identify the family as refugees. If you want to get media exposure for your group, or your group is approached by the media, it is essential that you get informed consent from the resettled family, who may not want this attention.
Monitoring and Evaluation
The Home Office will be monitoring and evaluating your sponsorship arrangement, as well as the wider community sponsorship scheme. The Home Office might therefore request to see evidence of the delivery of your resettlement plan, the results of the resettlement plan for the family, and any other relevant information. You must provide the Home Office with the information that they request. The Home Office might also monitor and evaluate the sponsorship arrangement by visiting you after the resettled family has arrived. The Home Office will normally notify you of a visit in advance, but they can visit unannounced in some circumstances. Ar present, the Home Office will visit you after the refugees have been in the UK after 1 month, 4 months and after 10 months. Interpreting services for the visits will need to be accommodated by the sponsor group; this includes paying for any costs incurred to facilitate this.
Use of Information
Information that you provide to the Home Office during the application process and during the period of your sponsorship agreement may be used by the Home Office in accordance with the Home Office Personal Information Charter
In certain circumstances, the Home Office may pass your information to other government departments and agencies, local authorities and fraud prevention agencies, such as HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Department of Work and Pensions, and Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System (CIFAS) for immigration purposes, the prevention of fraud and criminality, and/or to help those bodies carry out their functions.
Full details of what you will need to provide are available in the Home Office guidance for Community Sponsorship groups.