Sponsor Licence

For an initial consultation of a Sponsor Licence Application call our Business immigration Solicitors at Connaught Law on 0203 909 8399 or contact us online.

A Sponsor Licence application has to be made by an employer who wishes to hire foreign skilled workers from outside the UK.  As of 31 December 2020, a sponsorship licence is required to hire non-settled EEA nationals.

Type of Sponsor Licence

The sponsor licence you need depends on whether the workers you want to fill your jobs are:

  • ‘Workers’ – for skilled or long-term employment
  • ‘Temporary workers’ – for specific types of temporary employment

Worker Sponsor Licence

You can apply for a sponsor licence covering one or both types of workers.

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
  • Senior or Specialist Worker visa – for multinational companies which need to transfer established employees to the UK, previously intra-company Transfer visa.
  • Minister of Religion – for people coming to work for a religious organisation
  • Health and Care Worker visas –  for qualified doctors, nurses and allied health professionals of all nationalities (except British and Irish) who have been trained to a recognised standard.
  • International Sportsperson –  for elite sportspeople and coaches who will be based in the UK

Temporary Worker licence

A ‘Temporary Worker’ licence will let you sponsor people on a temporary basis, including for volunteering and job shadowing. You can only get a Temporary Worker licence for specific types of employment and visas.

The licence is split into:

    • Scale-up Worker – for people coming to work for a fast-growing UK business
    • Creative Worker – to work in the creative industry, for example as an entertainer or artist (up to 2 years)
    • Charity Worker – for unpaid workers at a charity (up to 1 year)
    • Religious Worker – for those working in a religious order or organisation (2 years)
    • Government Authorised Exchange – work experience (1 year), research projects or training, for example, practical medical or scientific training (2 years) to enable a short-term exchange of knowledge
    • UK Expansion Worker Visa -(Global Business Mobility) for workers sent to the UK to set up a new branch or subsidiary or an overseas business.
    • Graduate Trainee (Global Business Mobility) for workers transferring to their employer,s UK branch as part of a graduate training programme.
    • Service Supplier (Global Business Mobility) for workers with a contract to provide services for a UK company (6 or 12 months)
    • Secondment Worker (Global Business Mobility) for workers transferring from overseas to work for a different UK business as part of a high-value contract.
    • International Agreement Worker visa – for overseas nationals doing work in the UK covered by international law
    • Seasonal Worker visa – for overseas nationals undertaking farm work in the UK

When making a sponsor licence application, 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.

Sponsor Licence Requirements 2023

To apply for a sponsor licence, the employer must provide evidence to the Home Office that the business is lawfully trading and has a genuine vacancy. It must also satisfy the Home Office that the business has the required HR and recruitment process to monitor its employees and in particular any sponsored 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.

The Home Office assesses each application against a rigorous criterion to ensure that any prospective sponsor can comply with the duties of a sponsor licence. In some cases, UKVI will expect to see the policies and procedures on a physical visit to the licenced premises.

Key Personnel for Licence

The Home Office also requires the organisation to nominate certain individuals to take on roles in respect of the sponsor licence.  The people nominated must be primarily based in the UK. The main roles are:

  • authorising officer –  perhaps the most important of all the roles, this should be given to someone senior. Ideally, it should be someone who has some involvement with recruitment and/or HR as they will be ultimately responsible for the licence and ensuring that the sponsor licence duties are met.
  • key contact –  this person is the main point of contact with the Home Office.  A legal representative can undertake this role, and it is recommended you do so, as this will enable you to chase the application on your client’s behalf if needs be.
  • level 1 user –  responsible for all day-to-day management of the licence via access to an online portal, the sponsorship management system (SMS). At the application stage this has to be an employee but once the licence is secured, others, including representatives, can be set up as level 1 users, or level 2 users who are able to undertake certain limited tasks on the SMS.

It is important to carefully consider whether anyone nominated has skeletons in the closet, particularly any criminal conduct or previous adverse involvement with the Home Office. Applications for sponsor licences can be refused due to the character and past behaviour of the key personnel. The Home Office can and will run its own checks on nominees.

Apply for a Sponsor 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 are 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.

  • Step 1 – Assess the skilled occupation code
  • Step 2 – Check the relevant supporting documents
  • Step 3 – Start an online application for a sponsor licence
  • Step 4 – Send your supporting documents within 5 days of submitting the online application
  • Step 5 – Wait for the Home Office’s decision

Download Our Free Guide For Sponsor Licence 

Duration of a Sponsor 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 Much Does it Cost?

When an organisation applies for a sponsor licence, the Home Office charges either:

  • £536 if the organisation is a charity or defined as a small entity; or
  • £1,476 for large sponsors.
  • £500 pre-licence priority service

The Pre-Licence priority service allows sponsors to prioritise their application for a sponsor licence, by submitting an application by email.

Sponsor Licence Compliance

In many cases prior to deciding on a sponsor licence application, the Home Office 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.

Which Business is Eligible for Sponsor Licence?

  • Are you lawfully operating in the UK and intending to offer genuine employment to non-settled workers?
    Would you be willing to adhere to sponsor duties as prescribed by the UK Home Office?
  • Do you have or are willing to implement appropriate systems to monitor employees and people to manage sponsorship?
  • Do you and the organisation have a clean immigration and criminal history?

If the answers to the above are YES, we can help you with the rest.

How can we help

The Home Office will carefully scrutinise an application for a sponsor licence application. 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 with No licence no fee promise.

  • Free initial consultation with our immigration advisers
  • Experienced team with a proven track record
  • End to End case management
  • Dedicated case worker
  • Save money on legal costs

Our Sponsor Licence Services

  • Understand the licensing process and identify the appropriate licence type to sponsor migrant workers and/or students
  • Provide specific advice on eligibility requirements, sponsorship licence cost, compliance duties and required action plan to ensure the application’s success
  • Provide UK employers with Business & HR consultancy services to ensure sponsor licence applicants are granted within the right level for sponsorship.
  • Conduct Mock HR audits with the Key Personnel in preparation for UKVI compliance visits and provide detailed advice on how to issue certificates of sponsorship and operate sponsorship management systems
  • Prepare Organisation and Authorising officer for any Home Office Compliance Inspections as part of the UKVI sponsor licence application process
  • Assist the organisation in making the skilled worker sponsor licence application online and work with the authorising officer to submit this in an efficient and timely manner
  • Preparing a compelling business case evidencing that the applying business is a genuine organisation and explaining the organisation’s need for a sponsor licence

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.

For further help or information Get In Touch

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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.

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