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How to Sponsor an Employee for a Work Visa

This guide covers how to sponsor an employee for a work visa in the UK and how to apply for a sponsor licence.

For more information on how to sponsor an employee for a work visa, including the eligibility requirements, application process and costs involved, reach out to one of our immigration advisers today for more info. Call us on +44 (0)333 414 9244 or contact us online.


What is a Sponsor Licence?

A Sponsor Licence is a document that allows employers in the UK to sponsor migrant workers legally. The foreign worker can be from inside the European Economic Area (EEA) or from outside of the EEA. It is required for certain roles, as specified by the Immigration Rules.

A Sponsor Licence holder must ensure they comply with their sponsorship duties and comply with the points-based immigration system to remain compliant with UK immigration law.

The licence is approved by the Home Office and is issued for four years. There are two types of sponsor licences: worker and temporary worker.

Note that the new Skilled Worker visa route replaced the Tier 2 visa route on December 1st, 2020.

What are the Sponsor Licence Eligibility Requirements?

The eligibility requirements are for both the employer and the job.

Employer Eligibility

The eligibility requirements for the employer are that:

  • They must be a registered company in the UK and have an authorised signatory. This is confirmed by the Home Office, which will contact the company directly to verify this information.
  • They must have designated key personnel responsible for the Sponsorship Management System (SMC). This must be someone with experience in HR and UK immigration.
  • They must have policies and procedures in place, which are regularly reviewed and updated. These include keeping records of the sponsored workers, how they ensure compliance with the Immigration Rules, how they monitor their employees, how they prevent criminality and how they report any changes.
  • They should have access to the SMC online, which allows them to manage their sponsorships, including their Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) allocations.
  • They must also demonstrate how they will comply with their specific sponsorship duties.

At the same time, the employer cannot get a licence:

  • If they have been penalised with a civil penalty in the last 12 months.
  • If they are considered to be non-compliant.

Job suitability

The job must meet the following criteria:

  • It must be appropriate for sponsorship.
  • It must include a salary of at least £20,480 per year (unless otherwise specified by the Home Office).
  • The job must reflect the minimum skill level of RQF 3 or above.

The following are the workers that can be sponsored:

  • Skilled worker
  • Health or care worker
  • Worker on any type of ‘Global Business Mobility’
  • Scale-up worker
  • Worker on a government-authorized exchange.
  • Seasonal worker
  • Worker on an International Sportsperson visa
  • Worker on an international agreement
  • Creative worker
  • Charity worker
  • Minister of religion or religious worker

What is the Sponsor Licence Application Process?

The UK sponsor licence application is made online on the Home Office website.The following steps need to be done before the application can be submitted:

Step 1: Choose the type of licence you want to apply for

The type of licence you choose will depend on what type of worker you want to sponsor. As mentioned before, the two types are worker and temporary worker.

Worker licence

A ‘Worker’ licence will let you sponsor people in different types of skilled employment. The position can be long-term or short-term, depending worker’s visa. The licence is divided into the following:

  • Minister of Religion – for people coming to work for a religious organisation.
  • Senior or Specialist Worker visa – for people coming to take up a post in skilled employment.
  • Skilled Worker visa – for people who have an offer of a job in a role that the Home Office has approved as suitable for sponsorship.
  • International Sportsperson visa – for people coming to the UK with a job or career in sport.

Temporary worker licence

A ‘Temporary Worker’ licence will let you sponsor people from outside the EU who need to come to the UK temporarily, such as seasonal work or short-term contract roles. The types of temporary worker licences are:

  • Charity worker – for people coming to work for a charity.
  • Creative worker – for people coming to the UK with a job or career in the creative industry.
  • Government Authorised Exchange – for people coming to take part in an approved government exchange scheme.
  • International Agreement Worker – for people coming to the UK under a bilateral international agreement, such as musicians and entertainers.
  • Scale-up worker – for people coming to the UK with a job or career in a scale-up business.

Step 2: Nominating key personnel

Then you must nominate individuals as Key Personnel who will be responsible for the running of their Sponsorship Management System (SMS). These will include HR and compliance roles and the Home Office will use these contacts to check how the employer is meeting their sponsorship duties.

Additionally, you must nominate a key contact and a level 1 user who will be responsible for the day-to-day management of your sponsor licence using the SMS. A level 2 user will also be nominated if the primary level 1 user is unavailable.

Step 3: Deciding on CoS allocation

The UK employer must decide how many Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) they will need and how these will be allocated to individual migrants.

The CoS are permission from the Home Office to work in the UK for a specific employer and role. UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will only issue CoS if they decide that the employer is suitable and the job meets their criteria.

Step 4: Submitting the application

Once all these steps have been completed, you can submit your online sponsor licence application to UKVI. You will need to provide evidence supporting your application, such as financial statements, payroll information or bank statements.

It is important to remember that all the information you provide must be accurate and up-to-date; otherwise, the application may be refused. If any documents are missing from your application or the information you provide is incorrect, the application may be refused.

How to send the documents

The requirement is that you send the relevant documents via email. You can scan or take pictures of your submission sheet and supporting documents, then upload them to an email or use a file-sharing service such as WeTransfer. The documents should be in the following formats:

  • PDF
  • JPEG or
  • PNG

If you can not send the documents via email, contact UKVI to find out how else you can submit them.

Need help sponsoring an employee for a work visa? Contact our expert immigration lawyers today for assistance.

Sponsorship Management Roles

Suitability Checks

The Home Office will carry out suitability checks on both the employer and the job before issuing a CoS. These checks will ensure that the employer is suitable to sponsor migrants, that the job is suitable for sponsorship and that the migrant will be able to do the job. The Home Office may also contact the reference provided by the migrant for more information.

HR Contractors and Agency Staff

If you use HR contractors or agency staff to help you with your recruitment, you must make sure that they are registered with the Home Office as sponsors. You are responsible for their conduct and must make sure that they meet the sponsorship duties. If they do not, you may face penalties such as a ban from sponsoring migrants.

UK-based legal representatives

If you use a UK-based legal representative such as an immigration lawyer or solicitor, you must provide their details to the Home Office. This will be checked and if necessary, the Home Office may contact them for more information.

How Much Does it Cost to Sponsor someone?

The cost of applying for a sponsor licence will depend on how long the sponsorship period is and how many migrants you want to sponsor.

The current fee for a sponsor licence application is £536 and there are additional fees for each migrant you want to sponsor.

Here is a table of how much it costs to sponsor someone for a certain period of time:

Type of licenceFee for small or charitable sponsorFee for medium or large sponsor
Temporary Worker£536£536
Worker and Temporary Worker£536£1,476
Add a Worker licence to an existing Temporary Worker licenceNo fee£940
Add a Temporary Worker licence to an existing Worker licenceNo feeNo fee

An immigration skills charge may also apply for certain types of workers. This is currently £364 per year per person and is paid directly to the Home Office.

How to tell if you’re a charitable or small sponsor

If you’re a charitable sponsor, your application will be processed as a small or charitable licence. This is because charities are eligible for reduced fees when they apply to become sponsors.

The criteria for being classed as a charitable sponsor are based on how many people you sponsor, how much money you have in your accounts, how long the sponsorship period will be and how many people are employed by the organisation.

To be classed as a small sponsor, you must have no more than 50 employees and you must not generate an annual turnover of more than £10.2 million.

How Long Does it Take to get a Decision on a Sponsor Licence Application?

Once UKVI has received all the necessary documents and evidence they need, they will make a decision on your application within 8 weeks.

If you need the licence sooner, you can request an expedited decision, but this will incur an additional fee of £500 to get a decision within 10 working days.

Applications Refused

It’s important to make sure that all the information and evidence provided is correct and up-to-date when applying for a sponsor licence, as UKVI are very strict about errors or omissions. If there are any mistakes in your application or the information you provide is incorrect, UKVI may refuse your application.

You can request for a review of the decision, but this must be done within 28 days of receiving the refusal notice. The conditions of the review will depend on why the application was refused.

Want to apply for a sponsor license but don’t know where to start? Let us help you. Contact us now for assistance.

Sponsor Licence Documents to Submit

You will need to submit the following documents and evidence when applying for a sponsor licence:

  • A copy of your organisation’s business plan or financial statements.
  • Evidence that you meet the eligibility requirements. This could include bank statements, payroll information, proof of how long you have been trading and how you are funded.
  • A list of key personnel such as directors and HR representatives.
  • Proof that you can fulfil the duties of a sponsor, including how you will conduct right-to-work checks.
  • A copy of your job descriptions and how they relate to the relevant codes of practice set out in the Immigration Rules.
  • Police clearance certificate (for all key personnel).

Other additional requirements include the following:

  • If you are a charity or limited company, you need to provide a copy of your constitution
  • If you are a charity, an extract from the Charity Commission website that states how many years the organisation has been in existence
  • For companies that have been operating for less than one year, evidence of how long they have been trading
  • A copy of the business’s ‘Statement of Legal Entity Status’ from Companies House

Responsibilities of Employer Sponsors

Employer sponsors have certain responsibilities when sponsoring an employee for a work visa. These include:

  • Providing evidence of how the job was advertised to ensure it is in line with UK employment law.
  • Ensuring the worker has the right to work in the UK and providing proof of valid sponsor licence.
  • Making sure the sponsored worker is paid a minimum salary for the role.
  • Providing proof of identities, such as a passport or other form of ID.
  • Making sure the employee has permission to work in the UK and providing necessary documents.
  • Notifying UKVI if there are any changes to the employment of the sponsored employee.

If there are any changes in your circumstances that could affect the employee’s ability to work, you must inform UKVI immediately through the sponsorship management system (SMS).

If you are sponsoring under-18s, you are also responsible for making sure they have suitable accommodations and the right education. You should also have a consent letter from their parents or guardians if they are not travelling with them.

If you are sponsoring a scale-up worker, you must abide by the terms of the ‘Scale-up Visa’ and make sure all criteria are met.

How Can Immigration Advice Service Help?

At IAS, our experienced immigration solicitors and advisors can advise you on how to apply for a sponsor licence in a timely and cost-effective manner.

We will make sure that all the necessary documents are provided with your application and advise you on how to meet the criteria set out by UKVI.

We will also provide advice on how to comply with your sponsor duties, such as conducting right-to-work checks, applying for a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) and keeping records.

We can also help if you need assistance with making amendments to the licence, applying for new licences or renewing existing ones.

We can also help you if your application has been refused and how to make a successful appeal against the decision.

Our experienced team of immigration lawyers are always on hand to answer any questions you may have about how to sponsor an employee for a work visa. Contact us today on 0333 305 9375, or contact us online to find out how we can help with your uk visa sponsorship.

We offer immigration advice sessions as face to face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone.

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