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Tier 2 Sponsor Licence Application - A Guide For Employers

This article was first published in July 2019. Read our updated employer’s guide to making a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence Application.

In order to employ skilled workers with a long-term job offer from outside the EU, UK employers must first submit a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence application.  Non-EEA nationals must have a job offer from an employer that has made a successful Tier 2 Sponsor Licence application before they can apply to come to, or remain in, the UK for work.  In this post we provide a short guide for employers about making a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence application.

What is a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence?

A Tier 2 Sponsor Licence is a permission given to an organisation to sponsor workers in its business.  The UK has two categories of sponsor licences for companies to bring overseas (non-EEA) workers to the UK – these are found in the Tier 2 and 5 register of sponsors, also known as the Tier 2 and Tier 5 sponsor list. 

The sponsor licence a business should get depends on whether the workers required to fill its jobs are:

  • skilled workers with long-term job offers – which would need a Tier 2 licence
  • skilled temporary workers – which would be suited to a Tier 5 licence.

Businesses can apply for a sponsor licence covering either tier or both.   

The Tier 2 sponsor licence list sets out all companies with the ability to employ workers who are not British, settled, from an EEA country or who otherwise have permission to work.  The sponsor licence enables the company to sponsor the workers for their specified role. 

Having a sponsor licence comes with great responsibility, and ongoing duties to inform the Home Office of changes in circumstance or non-compliance by the sponsored migrant.

Tier 2 Sponsor Licence Application

Eligibility for a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence

A company must be eligible to sponsor workers.  While not all companies have sponsor licences, there are no sectoral limitations on what type of business can apply to sponsor non-EEA workers.  Businesses from all market areas are able to apply. 

When making a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence application, employers need to show that:

  • The appointed staff have no unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or other crimes, including dishonesty offences;
  • The company or anyone involved in sponsorship does not have a history of failing to carry out sponsorship duties;
  • Appropriate systems will be in place to monitor sponsored employees;
  • Appointed staff will be based in the UK for the majority of the time;
  • Appointed staff are not contracting for a specific project;
  • The company is not facing bankruptcy.

The Home Office published an Addendum to its Guidance for Sponsors on 17 July 2019, which applied with immediate effect to all sponsors. 

It emphasises the ‘significant trust’ placed in sponsors, and the responsibility that sponsors have to ‘behave in a manner that is consistent with our fundamental values and that is not detrimental to the wider public good’

Organisations whose behaviour is not conducive to public good include those:

  • fostering hatred or inter-community division; 
  • fomenting, justifying or glorifying terrorism; and/or; 
  • rejecting the rights of, or discriminating against, other groups or individuals on the basis of their gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, race, religious belief (including lack of belief), or any other protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.

Sponsor licence applications will be refused from applicants engaging in such behaviour or actions, and action may be taken against existing sponsors also seen to be engaged in such behaviour. 

How long does a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence application take?

Most applications for a Tier 2 sponsor licence are processed in less than 8 weeks. UK Visas & Immigration may need visit a business applying for a sponsor licence to check genuineness or appropriate systems being in place, etc.

We have blogged, here, about the ‘genuineness’ assessment which is important in a Tier 2 sponsor licence application. 

How much does an application for a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence cost?

The current Home Office Sponsor Licence application fees are £536 for small businesses or charitable sponsors to apply for a Tier 2 licence, or Tier 5, or both tiers. Small businesses are generally those with annual turnover is £10.2 million or less or 50 employees or fewer.  For medium or large sponsors, it currently costs £1,476 to apply for a Tier 2 sponsor licence, or both Tier 2 and Tier 5 sponsor licences, or £536 to just apply for the Tier 5 licence.

Sponsorship management

A Tier 2 sponsor has duties to maintain records and manage the sponsorship application process.  This is done by the sponsorship management system (SMS) and there are three key roles, which may be filled by one person or different persons: 

  • Authorising officer – a senior and competent person responsible for the actions of others who use the SMS;
  • Key contact – the company’s main point of contact with UKVI;
  • Level 1 user – responsible for all day-to-day management of the licence using the SMS.

A company can also appoint an additional Level 2 user once they have a licence. Level 2 has fewer powers in relation to the SMS – access is more restricted than for Level 1 users – for example they cannot withdraw a certificate of sponsorship.

Any of the roles can be allocated to a UK-based legal representative competent to give immigration advice, apart from the authorising officer role.

Considering a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence Application? Contact Our Business Immigration Barristers

For advice and assistance making a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence application, contact our immigration barristers and lawyers in London on 0203 617 9173 or via our enquiry form below


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