Personal Immigration
Business Immigration

Employing overseas workers and applying to become a licensed sponsor

If your business wishes to employ overseas workers (other than those from the EU) then you will need to apply to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) for a licence to enable you to do so under the “Points Based System”.

You can apply for a Sponsor Licence to enable you to employ workers longer term (Tier 2 of the PBS), or short term (Tier 5 of the PBS), or both, depending on the sector your business operates in.

Applying for a Sponsor Licence

Your business will need to be able to meet the requirement of being a legitimate business organisation operating lawfully in the UK.

You will need to be able to show that there are no reasons to believe your business poses a threat to immigration control.

You will also need to be able to show that your organisation will be able to meet its “sponsor duties” regarding recruitment and monitoring of overseas staff.  This is demonstrated by proving that your human resources and record keeping systems are good enough to be able to track migrants and perform your reporting duties adequately. This is a very important feature of the Sponsor Licence application.

We recommend that before a Sponsor Licence application is made, you should assess your systems and ensure that all is in order before the application is submitted.  If your application is successful, you want to be awarded a “Grade A” licence, which will give you greater scope to employ overseas workers.  If a “Grade B” licence is awarded, you will be subject to an action plan imposed by the UKBA (with an additional fee payable), and will have restrictions placed on the way you can employ overseas workers. The other possibility is that your Sponsor Licence application may attract a refusal, in which case you would need to reapply, and pay the application fee again.  A refusal would also mean a longer waiting time before you would be able to operate your licence.

You can see the names of businesses that have been awarded a Sponsor Licence by accessing the Register of Sponsors on the UKBA website.

We recommend that you seek professional legal advice before submitting your Sponsor Licence application.  The process can be complex and you should ensure that you are compliant with the requirements before you apply, in order to avoid the risk of refusal or the award of a Grade “B” licence instead of a Grade “A” licence.

Ensuring Compliance with Sponsor Duties

If your application for a Sponsor Licence is successful, you will need to ensure that you comply with your Sponsor Duties throughout the life of the licence.  Following grant of a licence, you will be able to issue “Certificates of Sponsorship” for individual overseas workers, but you need to be aware of the rules regulating issue of these certificates as breaches of these rules can have serious consequences (see below).

You will need to have an Authorising Officer and a Level One User in place at all times to operate the licence.  Any breaches of the compliance framework can lead to suspension or revocation of the licence, which can have serious consequences for your business.  For example, if a licence is revoked, all certificates of sponsorship issued to overseas workers will become invalid and your business will no longer be able to employ these workers from the point the licence is revoked.  This could have serious consequences for your business operations, as well as for the individual workers concerned.

We recommend that you take periodic advice whilst running your licence, and in particular before you issue any Certificates of Sponsorship, to ensure that you are compliant with the regulatory framework, and avoid the risk of penalties for non-compliance.

For professional legal advice or assistance with any aspect of applying for a Sponsor Licence or ensuring compliance with Sponsor Duties, contact our immigration barristers in London direct on 0203 617 9173 or by email on


To arrange an initial consultation meeting, call our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or fill out the form below.

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