SPONSOR LICENCE APPLICATIONS
If you are an employer seeking to employ an overseas national who is not a settled worker and who does not otherwise have immigration permission to work for you in the UK, you will need to apply to the Home Office for a sponsor licence.
The type of sponsor licence application you will need to make will depend on the immigration route that the overseas worker is seeking to be sponsored to work on. Each licence type has its own specific requirements. Employers should note that most EU, EEA and Swiss nationals arriving in the UK since 31 December 2020 now need to be sponsored in order to work in the UK.
What Is a Sponsor Licence?
A sponsor licence grants permission to a UK business to employ workers from outside the UK to work for them, in their business.
You will need a sponsor licence in order to employ most overseas workers, including Skilled Workers and UK Expansion Workers. This includes both non-EU nationals and also most citizens of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland who arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020.
You will not need a sponsor licence to employ an Irish citizen, a person with settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, a person with indefinite leave to remain in the UK or a foreign national who otherwise has permission to work in the UK.
In order to secure a sponsorship licence you will need to submit an application to the Home Office and pay an application fee.
Businesses of all sizes, operating in all sectors, can apply for a sponsor licence, providing they are able to satisfy the business eligibility and job suitability requirements for the category of sponsor licence they are applying for.
Requirements for a Sponsor Licence
In order to successfully apply for a sponsor licence, you will need to satisfy various general and route-specific requirements.
General Requirements for a Sponsor Licence
As part of your sponsor licence application you will need to satisfy the Home Office that:
- You are a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK;
- You are honest, dependable, reliable and are not engaging and have not engaged in behaviour or actions that are not conducive to the public good;
- You are capable of carrying out your sponsor duties and evidencing your compliance in a timeframe and manner set out in sponsor guidance.
In order to establish that you are a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK, you will need to submit a number of company-related documents. The exact documents you will need to provide will vary depending on the type of organisation and the route(s) you wish to sponsor migrants on.
When assessing whether you are honest, dependable, reliable and are not engaging and have not engaged in behaviour or actions that are not conducive to the public good, the Home Office will look at the history and background of your business, the backgrounds of the Key Personnel named in your application and also the backgrounds of any people involved in the day-to-day running of your business.
In order to assess whether you are capable of carrying out your sponsor duties and evidencing your compliance in a timeframe and manner set out in sponsor guidance, the Home Office will look at your current human resources and recruitment procedures to make sure that you will be able to fulfil your sponsor duties.
Route-specific Requirements for a Sponsor Licence
As an employer seeking to apply for a licence to sponsor an overseas national, you will also need to satisfy various additional requirements that are specific to the immigration route that the overseas national is seeking to be sponsored on.
- You can offer employment which meets the skill level requirement of the Skilled Worker route;
- You can offer employment which meets the salary level requirement of the Skilled Worker route;
- The job(s) you are looking to sponsor is (are) genuine;
- There is a direct employer-employee relationship between you (the sponsor) and the worker and you are not looking to sponsor a role which will involve hiring a worker to a third party to undertake an ongoing or routine role.
Alternatively, if you wish to apply for a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence to sponsor a worker on the Global Business Mobility – UK Expansion Worker visa route you will need to satisfy the Home Office that:
- You can offer employment which meets the skill level requirement for the UK Expansion Worker route;
- You can offer employment which meets the salary level requirement for the UK Expansion Worker route;
- The job(s) you are looking to sponsor is (are) genuine;
- You are not looking to sponsor a role which will involve working for a third party;
- There is a qualifying link between you (the sponsor) and the overseas business that will send workers to you;
- You are not already actively trading in the UK, but you have a UK ‘footprint’;
- The overseas business that is expanding to the UK is active and trading overseas and, unless an exception applies, has been active and trading for at least 3 years;
- You genuinely intend, and are able, to expand to the UK and establish a UK trading presence within two years;
- The planned expansion is in the same type of business that you conduct overseas;
- The business you are establishing in the UK is either wholly owned by the overseas business or is part of the same legal entity (such as a branch).
The UK offers a range of other Worker and Temporary Worker immigration routes, including the Global Business Mobility – Senior or Specialist Worker, Scale-up, International Sportsperson, Minister of Religion and Creative Worker routes. The route-specific requirements for a licence to sponsor an overseas national on any of these (or alternative) immigration routes will vary depending on the route.
If your application does not satisfy the sponsor licence requirements then your sponsorship licence application will be refused.
Documents Needed for a Sponsor Licence Application
You will need to provide at least four mandatory documents as set out in Appendix A of the Home Office sponsor guidance. The exact documents you will need to provide will vary depending on the circumstances of your application.
In addition to information about your organisation, the proposed job role, and the candidate in mind, you will also need to explain to the Home Office why you are applying for a sponsor licence.
Appointing Key Personnel
Before you apply for a sponsor licence, you will need to appoint an Authorising Officer to manage your sponsorship licence, a Key Contact to act as the main contact between your business and the Home Office and nominate at least one Level 1 User to carry out day-to-day sponsorship activities using the Sponsorship Management System (SMS).
- Authorising Officer – Usually someone senior within the company or organisation, who is involved with recruitment and/or HR. This person will be ultimately responsible for the licence, and ensuring that Sponsor Licence duties are met;
- Key Contact – The primary point of contact for the Home Office. A legal representative can undertake this role for you; and
- Level 1 User – This person will be responsible for all day-to-day management of the Sponsor Licence through an online portal, known as the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). This person must be an employee at the time of application, however once the Sponsor Licence has been assigned, others, including legal representatives can be set up at Level 1 Users, or Level 2 Users who are able to undertake certain limited tasks on the SMS.
These key personnel will need to be in place when you apply for your sponsor licence. The roles can be filled by the same person or a combination of different people.
Unless applying for a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence, for which different rules apply, each of your Key Personnel must be based in the UK for the period they will fill the role you have appointed them to, not have any unspent criminal convictions, civil penalties or other adverse history (including adverse immigration history) and be a paid member of your staff or engaged by you as an ‘office holder’ (unless an exception applies).
Apply for a Sponsor Licence
You will apply for your Sponsor Licence by completing an online application form, paying an application fee and submitting all relevant supporting documents within 5 working days of submitting your sponsor licence application.
You will also have to give information about the key personnel you are appointing, as well as the documents and evidence you are providing to meet the eligibility and suitability criteria.
A legal representative can help you complete the sponsor licence application form, advise on required and recommended supporting documents and draft submissions in support of a sponsor licence application, but the sponsor licence application form must be submitted by the sponsor themselves.
How Much Does a Sponsor Licence Cost?
The fee for submitting a sponsor licence application will vary depending on the size of your organisation. A small company or charity will be charged £536.00, and a medium or large sized company will be charged £1,476.00.
How Long Does It Take To Get a Sponsor Licence?
Sponsor licence applications typically take up to 8 weeks to be decided by the Home Office. There is a priority service which costs £500.00, and will return a decision within 10 working days.
Duration of a Sponsor Licence
If your sponsor licence application is successful, your licence will be valid for 4 years. If you wish to continue to sponsor workers after the end of the 4 year period you will need to apply to renew your sponsor licence before it expires.
It is not possible to renew a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence because you will normally be expected to have established a UK trading presence within 2 years from the date when the licence was granted. However, once you have established a UK trading presence, you will be able to apply to add other routes to your licence (for example, Skilled Worker or Senior or Specialist Worker). Your sponsored workers can then apply to switch to these routes if they meet the relevant requirements.
It is important that your sponsor licence application is prepared carefully, as there will be no right of appeal if your sponsor licence application is refused and there will be a six-month cooling off period.
Sponsor Licence Rating
If your sponsor licence application is approved, you will usually be rated ‘A’ on the published register of licensed sponsors. UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence applicants may be given a ‘Provisional’ rating instead if their Authorising Officer (and Level 1 User) is an employee of the overseas business.
Once you have been granted a sponsor licence you will be able to start assigning Certificates of Sponsorship to migrants who wish to work for you.
You will be given access to the Sponsor Management System (SMS). This is an online portal where you can manage your sponsor licence. You must also use the system to report certain events, such as if a migrant fails to report to work.
Sponsor Licence Guidance
If you are an employer considering applying to be authorised by the Home Office to sponsor a non-settled worker on either the Skilled Worker or UK Expansion Worker route then please visit the following pages for further and more detailed guidance as to the main general and route-specific requirements you will need to satisfy in order to successfully apply for a sponsor licence:
How Our Immigration Barristers Can Help
Our business immigration barristers assist UK employers to obtain the right sponsor licence, maintain their licence at the highest rating and comply with their sponsor duties.
Whether you require advice on the correct company-related documentation to provide in support of a sponsor licence application, assistance with drafting a compelling business case that will satisfy UKVI that you need a sponsor licence in order to fill a genuine role or guidance on running a compliant recruitment process, our immigration barristers can manage the sponsor licence application process on your behalf.
We pride ourselves on being approachable and proactive in understanding and meeting our business clients’ needs. We are a highly driven team, dedicated to providing clear and reliable immigration advice directly to UK employers as part of a professional and friendly service.
We can also assist with
Advice on company-related documentation required by UKVI
In order to establish that you are a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK, you will need to submit a number of company-related documents to UKVI. You will also need to present information concerning your business activities in the UK, HR and recruitment practices and details of how your organisation intends to comply with the requirements of the sponsor licence. The documents will need to be received by UKVI within 5 working days of the date on which the online application form is submitted.
Our immigration barristers can advise on the full range of company-related documents that UKVI will expect to see and also check your documents in order to ensure that they comply with Home Office requirements.
Drafting representations in support of sponsor licence applications
As part of your application for a sponsor licence, you will need to advance a compelling business case explaining why you need a sponsor licence and why the role that you are seeking to fill is a genuine one that fits into your organisation.
Our immigration barristers can draft compelling representations which will make the case to UKVI as to why your company should be granted a sponsor licence.
Mock Immigration Audits
As part of its assessment of whether you are capable of carrying out your sponsor duties, UKVI may visit your business premises. They will inspect your recruitment and human resources procedures and will interview relevant staff.
As part of our sponsor licence application preparation service, a barrister with specialist expertise can undertake a mock Immigration Audit of your recruitment and HR processes in order to ensure that you have the necessary systems and procedures in place to meet your sponsorship obligations.
Sponsor Licence Renewals
Your sponsor licence will expire 4 years after it was granted. If you wish to continue to sponsor migrants, you will need to apply for a Sponsor Licence Renewal before it expires. It is good practice to apply at least one month before your licence expires.
You may be asked to send additional documents to UKVI. If you fail to send UKVI these documents, they may downgrade, suspend or revoke your licence. UKVI may also visit your business premises. If they have any concerns about your actions as a sponsor they may downgrade or revoke your licence. Our immigration barristers can work with you to ensure that you are able to successfully renew your sponsor licence.
Sponsor Licence Suspensions and Revocations
If UKVI believe that you are breaching your duties and pose a threat to immigration control, your sponsor licence may be suspended. If you are subject to a Sponsor Licence Suspension, you will not be able to sponsor new migrants, but your current sponsored migrants will be unaffected. UKVI may then reinstate your licence, downgrade it or revoke it.
If you are failing to meet your sponsor duties in a serious way or stop operating in the UK, your licence will be revoked. If you are subject to a Sponsor Licence Revocation, any migrants that you sponsor will have their leave curtailed. They will be given 60 calendar days to find alternative sponsorship or leave the UK.
Our immigration barristers work with sponsors to secure reinstatement of their sponsor licences, ensuring that a robust case is presented to UKVI addressing any issues raised in suspension letters. If a decision has been taken to revoke a sponsor licence, our immigration barristers can advise on the merits of applying for Judicial Review of the revocation decision and, where appropriate, provide representation in Judicial Review proceedings.
Sponsor Licence Refusals
There is no right of appeal against the refusal of an application for a sponsor licence.
If the Sponsor Licence Refusal decision was the result of either a caseworker error or the result of supporting evidence sent as part of your application not being considered by UKVI then our immigration barristers can assist you to request that the error be corrected and, if appropriate, submit a new online sponsor licence application.
If the decision to refuse your sponsor licence application was unlawful, unreasonable or procedurally improper, our immigration barristers can apply for Judicial Review and provide representation at Judicial Review hearings.
We also assist employers to prepare fresh applications for sponsor licences following previous refusal decisions.