A Sponsor Licence is generally required by an employer who wishes to employ a skilled worker from outside the UK. As of 31 December 2020, a licence is also required to hire non-settled EEA nationals.
Types of Sponsor licence
There are two types of licences available.
The first type of licence is a “Worker licence” and is suitable for employers who have long-term job offers. This licence is split into four different categories depending on the type of vacancy available. These categories are:
- Skilled Worker – the role must meet the job suitability requirements as set out in Appendix Skilled Worker. Essentially, the job offered must be at a suitable rate of pay and skill level.
- Intra-companies visas – this includes Intra-company Transfer and Intra-company Graduate Trainee.
- Minister of Religion – suitable for people coming to work for a religious organisation.
- Sportsperson – for elite sportspeople and coaches.
The second type of licence is a “Temporary Worker” licence which allows employers to employ people on a temporary basis. This is also split into six different categories.
When applying for a sponsor licence, an employer will need to select the most appropriate type of licence and category based on its business needs. It is possible for an employer to hold a sponsor licence under more than one category.
To apply for a sponsor licence, the employer must provide evidence to the UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) that the business is lawfully trading and has a genuine vacancy. It must also satisfy UKVI that the business has the required HR and recruitment process to monitor its employees and in particular any sponsors employees.
An employer seeking a sponsor licence must also be able to show that there are no unspent criminal convictions or immigration offences or certain other offences such as money laundering and fraud and that no sponsor licence has been revoked in the last 12 months.
UKVI assess each application against a rigorous criterion to ensure that any prospective sponsor can comply with duties that come with a sponsor licence. In some cases, UKVI will expect to see the policies and procedure on a physical visit of the licenced premises.
UKVI Compliance visit
In many cases prior to deciding on a sponsor licence application, UKVI may visit the organisation to carry out a compliance review to determine whether the prospective sponsor is capable of offering genuine vacancies and carrying out its sponsor duties.
As part of a compliance visit, UKVI can carry out several checks, including a review of the organisation’s current practices, policies and HR procedures in order to ensure that it has suitable systems in place for hiring and monitoring workers.
If following a review, UKVI has any concerns, the application can be refused. It is therefore essential that the organisation reviews relevant systems and policies prior to submitting a sponsor licence application.
Applying for a Skilled Worker Licence
Any employer wishing to apply for a licence to sponsor workers must submit the appropriate online application form and pay the application fee depending on the size of the business.
An employer must also submit the appropriate supporting documents within 5 working days of submitting the application form. The documents required are set out in Appendix A of the Sponsor Guidance. Generally, a minimum of four documents is required to support any sponsor licence application. The type of documents required can depend on the type of business. All prospective sponsors are nevertheless required to show that they are actively and lawfully trading.
Duration of a licence
Any licence granted will generally be valid for 4-years, starting from the date of the grant. A licence must be renewed before this 4-year period is over.
How we can help
UKVI will carefully scrutinise an application for a sponsor licence application. If it does not consider that an organisation is genuine, or it considers that any of the other requirements have not been met, the application will fall for refusal. It is therefore essential that the application is prepared thoroughly and carefully.
We are experienced in preparing sponsor licence applications to ensure a successful outcome and will provide expert guidance and assistance to organisations throughout the process.
If your organisation requires legal assistance or you would just like to discuss your situation with one of our experts on a no-obligation basis, please give our team a call or make an online enquiry below.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What requirements does the Skilled Worker have to meet?
The Skilled Worker visa applicant to be sponsored by the employer needs to gain at least 70 points under the Skilled Worker points system. The requirements under the Intra-Company Transfer scheme are different and in many cases, current overseas employees in a skilled role with a salary of £41,500 per annum or more will qualify. Typical examples of a Skilled Worker meeting the requirements are as follows:
- UK sponsor offers a job.
- Job on the Skilled Worker occupation list
- Has a degree taught in English, or passed an English language test verified by UKVI or is from an English speaking country.
- The salary for the job is at the going rate or £25,600, whichever is higher.
Salary is at the new entrant rate which is seventy percent of the going rate or £20,480, whichever is higher. In most cases, this is for students applying in the UK and those under 26 years of age.
Someone on the Shortage Occupation List being paid £25,600 per annum, or at least eighty per cent of the going rate, whichever is higher.
There are also many other situations where the UK work visa applicant will meet the points requirement.
How many people can you sponsor using the same Sponsor Licence?
You can theoretically employ an unlimited number of people during the four year validity period of the sponsor licence. Under the Skilled Worker visa scheme, you need to meet the Skilled Worker visa points requirement, obtain a Certificate of Sponsorship for each Skilled Worker visa applicant and pay the relevant Government fees. The main requirements for an Intra-Company Transfer visa are a bit different to the Skilled Worker visa, with a salary requirement of £41,500 per annum in most cases and a smaller number of skilled occupations that qualify. It will most likely remain the case that the Skilled Worker visa category will remain much more popular than the Intra-Company Transfer visa. You should also make sure that you comply with your obligations as a sponsor licence holder. If you do not do so, you could lose your sponsor licence.
Can you sponsor relatives once you have a Sponsor Licence?
If you have a sponsor management role for the sponsor licence you cannot assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to a partner or a close relative. Those that are counted as being relatives is quite wide ranging, and include parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, in-laws. A business owner or somebody else in the UK business could potentially employ relatives, as long as the person assigning the Certificate of Sponsorship in the Sponsor Management System is someone else. If a CoS is being assigned to a family member of someone in the organisation, then a sponsor note should be added confirming this on the Sponsor Management System.
Do you need to employ someone in the business before applying for a Sponsor Licence?
In practice you will need someone in the UK who has responsibility for the Sponsor Management System for the sponsor licence. The person could be an UK or Irish citizen, or temporary or permanent resident and must be able to legally take on a sponsor management role. The person should have some sort of position in the UK business such as say a director or employee. The person does not necessarily have to be on the payroll and does not have to work full-time for the UK business.
Do you need an office to obtain a Sponsor Licence?
This is not strictly necessary. If you do not have an office, it may be an idea to set aside some space at home for the business. You could also find a cheap virtual office. The Government anyway, since the COVID-19 pandemic, have been encouraging people to work from home. It is important that the business has at least started trading, even if it is at a very minimal level.
Should you apply for a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence or Intra-Company Transfer Sponsor Licence?
If you wish to have the option of employing the visa applicant permanently on a long term basis it would probably be best to apply for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence. Intra-Company Transfer visa holders usually need to switch to a Skilled Worker visa to eventually be eligible for indefinite leave to remain. Skilled Worker visa holders can in many cases apply for indefinite leave to remain at the end of five years in the UK. You do have the option of applying for both types of sponsor licence at the same time.
What are the basic requirements for a Sponsor Licence application?
Usually a business that is already trading in the UK should be able to provide the necessary documents. You need to have at least one person (perhaps on a part-time basis) already resident in the UK that can be trusted completely who will take on roles for the Sponsor Management System such as Level 1 User, Authorising Officer, and Key Contact. Typical documents that are provided include proof of PAYE registration, employers liability insurance document, bank letter or statements and rent agreement.
How long will it take to obtain a Sponsor Licence?
This will vary enormously. However, in most cases the sponsor licence is granted within three or four weeks. It seems in practice very small businesses with say one or two staff face a bigger risk of being visited by the Home Office before a sponsor licence is granted, and so processing times in these cases may be longer. There is a priority service for a Government fee of £500 that will provide a response within ten working days. There is a limited availability of only ten applications a day for the priority service, and so there will be times when demand for the service will exceed the number of places available.
Should you apply for a Sponsor Licence?
If you are an employer and wish to employ overseas skilled workers then it is likely you will need a sponsor licence. You need to have a sponsor licence to employ a Skilled Worker visa and Intra-Company migrants. Now that the Brexit transitional period has ended you will now need a sponsor licence to employ newly arriving EU migrants. Irish nationals are in the Common Travel Area and so can continue to work freely in the UK.
When can I apply again if my previous application has been refused?
If you have been refused a licence, you should not make another application until 6 months after the date of the Home Office decision letter refusing your application.
Similarly, if you withdrew a previous application while we were undertaking checks on you which revealed something that was likely lead to a refusal of that application, you should not make another application until 6 months after the date of the Home Office letter accepting the withdrawal of your application.
What will happen if I do not comply with my sponsor duties?
Where the breach is a minor issue, you are willing and able to correct it, and pose no continuing threat to immigration control, Home Office will in most cases support you in making the relevant improvements by issuing an action plan, which sets out the steps you must take in order to retain your licence.
Where there is a serious breach indicating:
- a significant or systematic failing
- you no longer meet the eligibility or suitability requirements for holding a licence
- Where Home Office consider that you constitute a serious threat to immigration control
Home Office may decide either to suspend your licence and investigate further or to revoke your licence without prior suspension.
If my licence is revoked, can I apply again?
Once your licence has been revoked, you cannot make a further application for a sponsor licence until the end of the appropriate cooling off period from the date your licence was revoked. If you do make an application before this period has passed, it will be refused. The only exception to this is if your licence was revoked in error.
If my application is refused, can I apply again?
There is no right of appeal against the refusal of an application for a licence if you applied before 1 April 2016. If your application was sent on or after this date and you believe that the refusal decision is either:
- the result of a caseworker error – for example, if we have incorrectly applied the 6-month cooling off period and you send evidence to us to support this
- the result of supporting evidence sent as part of your application not being considered by us – for example, if we have not considered a specific piece of information and you send evidence to show this was received by us
The request must be sent within 14 calendar days from the date of the refusal decision letter.