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Skilled Worker Route Sponsorship Costs: A Comprehensive Guide for UK Companies

In an increasingly globalised world, businesses often seek to attract talent from across the globe to remain competitive and innovative. For companies operating in the UK, sponsoring migrants as Skilled Workers is an increasingly common and important practice.  With EEA citizens who are not eligible under the EU Settlement Scheme no longer having the right to move to and work in the UK, the UK job market has had to react, and sponsoring migrants as Skilled Workers is no longer something that is unusual.  

We very regularly assist start-up companies and small businesses to obtain sponsor licences, and it is possible for any type of business to consider an application, so long as the business need is there, and they are realistic about the costs involved and can afford these. 

The costs associated with immigration sponsorship can represent significant financial commitment, and the requirements at the initial application and ongoing costs must be factored in. 

This article will set out the fees with reference to the fees that came into force on 05 October 2023 in relation to when a company sponsors migrants to work in the UK as Skilled Workers or as Health and Care Workers.

My next article will cover how much sponsored Skilled Workers must be paid, which is of course vitally important financially, but also very important for maintaining a company’s licence and ensuring compliance with sponsor duties. 

Sponsor Licence Fees

The first step in sponsoring Skilled Workers in the UK is applying for a Sponsor Licence from the Home Office. Such a licence is mandatory for any company looking to hire overseas talent and is valid for four years. 

As of October 2023, the fees for a Sponsorship Licence remain as follows:

  • Small businesses and charities: £536
  • Medium or large businesses: £1,476

Small businesses normally have at least two of the following: 

  • Annual turnover of £10.2m or less;
  • Total assets with £5.1m or less;
  • 50 employees or fewer. 

Charitable sponsors are registered as charities in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland or an excepted/exempt charity or an ecclesiastical corporation established for charitable purposes. 

Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) Fees

Once a company has obtained a Sponsor Licence, to sponsor a Skilled Worker, they need to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to each individual worker to be sponsored.  The CoS fee for Skilled Worker, T2 MOR, and GBM Senior or Specialist workers is currently £239 per CoS.   This is the same fee whether the CoS is a Defined Certificate of Sponsorship, intended to sponsor a Skilled Worker applying for entry clearance to come to the UK, or an Undefined Certificate of Sponsorship, to sponsor a Skilled Worker applying for leave to remain within the UK. 

It is very important that the correct type of CoS is assigned – this is dictated by the route under which the migrant is being sponsored, as well as where the application is to be made (from within the UK / for entry clearance). 

Assigning an incorrect type of CoS not only wastes the fee for that CoS, but can lead to the visa application being refused if a correct type of CoS is not assigned promptly, and the Home Office may consider that Sponsor duties are not being complied with and the sponsor licence itself would be at risk of suspension and revocation

It may be that a migrant requires an additional CoS to continue working for the same company – this is necessary if the Skilled Worker’s job code changes.  A Certificate of Sponsorship enables a worker to work under the specified job code, for the sponsoring company.  If a Skilled Worker’s responsibilities or role change such that the Authorising Officer identifies that they fall within a new job code, they must be re-sponsored.

Immigration Skills Charge

The Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) is an expense that a sponsoring UK company must bear. 

The ISC is currently set at:

  • £364 per year for small or charitable organisations
  • £1,000 per year for medium or large businesses

This charge applies to each individual sponsored migrant though there are some exceptions –  for example students switching / Skilled Workers being sponsored in certain job codes may not incur this fee.   

Unlike the majority of fees, where the company and migrant can decide who covers the cost, the ISC has to be paid by the company.

In the event that a sponsored migrant fails to work for the full duration of their CoS (e.g. sponsored for 5 years but works for 2 years) it is possible to get a partial refund for the years not worked.  ISC payments are also refunded in the event that a visa application is refused or withdrawn, or the migrant does not come to work for the sponsoring company. 

Priority fees

Companies may wish to avail themselves of priority processing fees for the sponsor licence application itself, or for requesting new in-year CoS allocations within the UK.  

The pre-licence priority sponsor licence service can reduce processing times for a sponsor licence application from around 8 weeks as standard, to within 10 working days.  The fee for this priority service is £500 per request. 

Visa application fees

These vary depending on the length of the CoS – whether this is up to / longer than 3 years, and whether or not the job is on the shortage occupation list. 

Current application fees per person are: 

In-country CoS valid up to 3 years CoS valid 3+ years
Skilled Worker 

(and any dependants)

£827 £1636
Skilled Worker with Shortage Occupation CoS (and any dependants) £551 £1084
Health and Care visa 

(and any dependants)

£284 £551
Health and Care visa  Shortage Occupation CoS

(and any dependants)

£284 £551


Entry clearance CoS valid up to 3 years CoS valid 3+ years
Skilled Worker 

(and any dependants)

£719 £1420
Skilled Worker with Shortage Occupation CoS (and any dependants) £551 £1084
Health and Care visa 

(and any dependants)

£284 £551
Health and Care visa  Shortage Occupation CoS

(and any dependants)

£284 £551

The Skilled Worker may choose to rely on standard processing of their immigration application, or may wish to purchase priority processing services at additional cost.  The relevant fees depend where an application is being submitted and the level of priority processing. 

Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)

The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) is a fee that migrants incur when applying for a visa in excess of 6 months.

The IHS is set at:

  • £1035 per year for most adult migrants;
  • £776 per year for students and those on the Youth Mobility Scheme;
  • £776 per year for children under the age of 18.

Resident Labour Market Test?

Happily, while people have often heard about the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) and expect it to be relevant, since the Skilled Worker route replaced Tier 2 General, the RLMT no longer exists.  This means that unnecessary costs of advertising and recruitment are not incurred due to immigration requirements alone, though of course companies may incur such fees during their search for appropriate talent. 

Legal and Compliance Costs

Navigating the complexities of immigration law and ensuring compliance with all Rules and Guidance can be challenging. Many companies opt to seek legal advice and engage assistance to manage the sponsor licence application and sponsoring process efficiently. Costs can vary, depending on the complexity of your case and the number of Skilled Workers to be sponsored. 

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