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I Need a Sponsor Licence – Here’s How to Get it

You’ll need a sponsor licence to recruit foreign workers, including EU and Swiss citizens, for your UK-based business.

IAS lawyers can walk you through the process of getting a sponsor licence. Reach us on 0333 305 9375 or via our online contact form for immediate assistance.

Who is Eligible for a Sponsor Licence?

All legal businesses in the UK can apply for a sponsorship licence but must meet specific eligibility and suitability criteria. To qualify for a sponsor licence, an organisation must:

  1. Be genuine and operate lawfully within the UK. Limited companies must be registered with Companies House.
  2. Have a genuine job vacancy within the required skill and salary levels for a skilled worker visa.
  3. Have adequate recruitment systems for managing sponsored employees and carrying out other sponsorship duties.
  4. Be operating with permission from the Local Planning Authority or other relevant planning permission for its type of business.
  5. The organisation, its stakeholders, directors, and key personnel must have clean immigration records and not be involved in fraud or money laundering.

Ensure that you meet these requirements before applying for a sponsor licence; it will reduce the chances of the Home Office refusing your application. The Home Office officials will likely pay a compliance visit to your business premises before making a decision. They might refuse your application if they’re not satisfied with your employee management system. This is why you might want to hire one of IAS’ lawyers. Our experienced and reliable immigration lawyers will assess your eligibility to ensure you meet all the requirements. Call us on 0333 305 9375  for prompt assistance.

Types of Sponsor Licence

The type of sponsorship licence you need depends on the job role you’re hiring to fill. There are two main categories of sponsor licence: worker sponsor licence and temporary worker sponsor licence. You can apply for a licence covering one or both categories, and you must specify the type you want in your application.

Worker Sponsor Licence

This type of licence is needed if you’re hiring skilled workers for long-term employment. It is typically for workers coming to the UK on a Skilled Worker Visa for a minimum of three years. Worker licence has many sub-categories. They are

  • Skilled worker visa
  • International Sportsperson visa – for top sportspersons and coaches coming to work in the UK.
  • Senior or Specialist Worker visa – for persons coming to take up a senior role in the UK branch of a multinational. It is also known as Global Mobility Visa (previously Intr-company transfer visa).
  • Minister of Religion – for employees of religious organisations.

Temporary Worker Sponsor Licence.

A temporary worker licence allows you to sponsor skilled foreign workers for short-term employment in the UK. Depending on the job role, you can sponsor an employee with a temporary worker licence for up to two years. The categories of temporary worker sponsor licence include

  • Charity worker – for unpaid charity workers (up to one year)
  • Creative worker – for entertainers, artists, and other creative industry workers (up to 2 years)
  • Government Approved Exchanges – for participants in short-term research, training, and knowledge exchange programs (up to one year)
  • Seasonal workers – those coming to work at seasonal jobs in horticulture ad poultry (up to 6 months).
  • Religious worker – for those coming for short-term work in a religious organisation (up to  2 years).
  • UK Expansion Worker – persons coming to start a UK branch of an international business (up to 2 years)
  • International Agreement – persons coming to work in internationally recognised roles such as consular employees of foreign governments (up to 2 years)
  • Graduate trainee – persons coming for employee training in the UK branch of their company.

IAS lawyers can  help you analyse your business to determine the type of sponsor licence you need. Speak to any of our lawyers on the phone at 0333 305 9375 or via the online contact form for prompt assistance.

How Can I Get a Sponsor Licence?

Once you meet the eligibility criteria, the next step is to complete the online application. You’ll need to attach a cover letter (outlining details of the organisation and why it needs a sponsor licence) and supporting documents to the application. The application is to be submitted by the sponsor, most often the authorising officer.

Before COVID-19, the sponsor was required to print out and sign the submission sheet, which will be mailed to UKVI, together with the cover letter and relevant supporting documents. Following the pandemic, the Home Office now accepts online application submissions.

The authorising officer can electronically sign the submission sheet and send it (as a pdf) by email along with the cover letter and supporting documents to the email address on the form. An application fee has to be paid on completion of the online application. The fee varies depending on the size of your organisation and the role you’re sponsoring to fill. Your application is invalid without the fee.

Immigration Advice Service lawyers have helped many employers obtain their sponsor licence. We will walk you through the details of your sponsor licence application process and maintain close contact with UKVI to ensure your application is not refused. Contact us on 0333 305 9375 or via our online contact form for immediate assistance.

What Supporting Documents Do I Need for a Sponsor Licence Application?

You’ll need to provide sufficient documentation to prove to the Home Office that you need a sponsor licence. Details of all supporting documents and information to be provided with an application are contained in Appendix A. You must submit at least four of these documents, though the specific documents to be provided depend on your type of business. Some documents to provide include

  • Audited accounts for the last year
  • Evidence of HMRC registration
  • VAT registration certificate
  • Liability insurance certificate
  • Updated business bank account statement
  • Evidence of long-term lease or purchase of business premises
  • Evidence of registration with the relevant regulatory body where applicable

All supporting documents must be sent to the Home office within five days of completion of online application. The Home Office might request more supporting evidence if they’re not satisfied with the documents you submitted.

If you proceed with our full application package, our lawyers will work with you through your application steps. We will help you gather and organize all your support evidence and documents and file it alongside your application, thereby reducing the possibility of your application getting delayed or rejected.  To begin your application process with IAS, call us on 0333 305 9375.

Sponsor Management Roles

As part of the sponsorship licence application process, you’ll need to assign staff members to key sponsor management roles. They will form your sponsor management team and conduct all sponsorship duties, including issuing CoS and communicating with UKVi via the sponsorship management system (SMS). The key sponsorship roles are

  • Authorising Officer: signs and submits the sponsor licence application and oversees the activities of the sponsor management team. Must be a senior staff in the organisation.
  • Key Contact: maintains contact with the Home Office. Can either be a staff or a legal representative.
  • Level 1 user: is responsible for the daily use of the SMS, applies for and issues a Cos when needed.
  • Level 2 user: assists the level 1 user and has limited access to the SMS. The role is optional.

All of these roles except that of authorising officer can be filled by legal representatives or employees of the human resource agency you work with. An IAS immigration lawyer can help with the Key Contact role to ensure smooth and efficient communication with UKVI and facilitate a quick response to your application. You can reach us via phone at 0333 305 9375, online using our contact form, or in person by visiting any of our offices.

Also, UKVI will carry out background checks on all employees holding a sponsorship role. You should ensure that staff assigned to these roles have no record of breaching UK immigration rules and do not have unspent criminal convictions.

Get in touch with our expert immigration lawyers to receive assistance on your Sponsor Licence Application.

UK Sponsor Licence Rating

There are two sponsor licence ratings: A-rating and B-rating. You’ll receive an A-rating when the Home Office approves your sponsor licence application. This A-rated licence enables you to issue Certificates of Sponsorship to your foreign employees applying for the Skilled worker visa route. The Home Office will add your organisation to the list of sponsors and give you access to the Sponsorship Management System (SMS).

However, a successful application does not mean your licence will continue to remain valid. To maintain an A-rating, you’ll have to maintain your HR systems and carry out all your sponsor licence duties. If the Home Office notices a fall in the standard organisational requirement for sponsorship, they’ll downgrade your licence to a B-rating.

A B-rating means you’ll be unable to issue new CoS, although already sponsored employees can continue to work for you. For a £1,476 fee, the Home Office will provide you with an action plan to upgrade your licence. Your licence will only be upgraded at the successful completion of the plan. If you do not still meet the Home Office’s requirements at the end of the plan, your licence might be revoked. You must pay for the action plan within 10 working days of your licence downgrade.

In cases of serious immigration breaches, the Home Office can decide to revoke your licence immediately without downgrading and issuing an action plan. Once your licence is revoked, you’ll be unable to sponsor new employees, the visa of your sponsored employees will be curtailed, and you’ll be subject to a cooling-off period before you can reapply.

How Much Does a Sponsor Licence Cost?

The sponsor licence application cost depends on the size of your organisation and the type of worker you’re sponsoring. Small sponsors’ sponsor licence application fee is less than that of medium or large businesses. The application fees are as follows:

LicenceSmall or charitable sponsorsMedium or large sponsors
Temporary Worker£536£536
Worker and Temporary Worker£536£1,476
Adding Worker to existing Temporary Worker£0£940
Adding Temporary Worker to existing Worker£0£0

You’re considered a small sponsor if any two of these apply to you:

  • Your employees are 50 or fewer.
  • Your annual turnover is less than or equal to £10.2 million.
  • Your total assets are worth £5.1 million or less.
  • You’re a charitable organisation.

How Long Will It Take to Process My Sponsor Licence?

After submitting your application and relevant supporting documents, you should get a decision from the Home Office within 8 weeks. The Home Office officials will visit your business premises to ensure compliance with sponsorship requirements before making a decision.

You can get a decision within two weeks for an additional £500 fee. However, the service is only available for a limited number of daily applications and is attended to on a first-come, first-serve basis. After completing your application, you’ll be told how to apply for this service.

If you are concerned about meeting a deadline or you have a strict timeframe, reach out to us and we will help you fast-track your application. With our Fast-Track application package, you can rest assured you will get the highest-quality and fastest service. Call us on 0333 305 9375 for immediate assistance.

What are my Sponsorship Responsibilities Besides Issuing a CoS?

Becoming a UK sponsor licence holder is not a simple affair. Asides from meeting the sponsor licence requirements, sponsor licence holders are expected to fulfil a plethora of sponsor duties to maintain the licence. Applying for a sponsorship licence means you’re willing to take up the many responsibilities of sponsoring migrant workers.

The following are some of your duties as a sponsor licence holder.

  • You must ensure that your foreign workers have the required skills and qualifications and keep copies of documents that prove it.
  • You must have adequate HR systems for monitoring the immigration status of sponsored workers and tracking their attendance.
  • You must keep details and copies of relevant employee documents such as passport, right to work, and updated contact details.
  • Report to UKVI if your sponsored workers are not keeping their visa conditions.
  • Report problems with foreign employees to UKVI, for example, if your migrant worker stops coming to work or resigns.
  • Notify the Home Office of changes to the immigration status of your foreign worker, such as when they obtain an Indefinite Leave to Remain.
  • Notify UKVI of changes to your business, such as a change of business premises, a merger or a takeover.

If you have any questions about your Sponsor Licence Application, our team is happy to assist.

Why was my Sponsor Licence Application Refused?

The Home Office can refuse an application if the organisation does not meet the standard sponsorship licence requirements. You cannot appeal a refused sponsor licence application, and you’ll also lose the application fee.

It’s essential to avoid having a refused sponsor licence application because it can affect your business growth plan and sponsorship eligibility. Not only will you be unable to sponsor a foreign employee, but you might also be unable to reapply for a licence for up to 1 year.

The Home Office refuses sponsor licence applications for several reasons. Some of them include

  • Previous immigration offences
  • Late or incomplete submission of supporting documents
  • Failed the Home Office compliance visits
  • Key personnel issues
  • Failed genuineness test,
  • Caseworker error

The Home Office’s decision cannot be appealed except in a situation of caseworker error. If you identify a caseworker error as the cause of the Home Office’s refusal of your sponsor licence application, you can send an error correction request.

IAS lawyers can help review your sponsor licence application to determine if it was refused because of a caseworker error. We will help you submit a caseworker error correction request and maintain communication with the Home Office to ensure you get your sponsorship licence in good time. Reach us via phone on 0333 305 9375 or via our online contact form for immediate assistance.

Renewing Your Sponsor Licence

A sponsor licence is valid for four years and is subject to renewal. If you want to continue being a sponsor, you must apply for a licence renewal at least one month before your licence expiry date. The application for sponsorship licence renewal is made via the sponsor management system (SMS). You’re to pay an application fee before applying.

UKVI will carry out a validity check upon receipt of your application and notify you of the outcome within 8 weeks. Your application is invalid if you do not pay the appropriate application fee.

If you fail to apply for a sponsor licence renewal before the expiration of your current licence, you’ll lose your right to sponsorship. UKVI will also curtail the visas of your sponsored migrant workers.

If you have any questions about your Sponsor Licence Application, our team is happy to assist.

How can IAS Help

Getting a sponsor licence can be tasking but has immense benefits when successful. The sponsor licence application process requires due diligence, especially in assigning sponsor management roles and gathering relevant supporting documents to prevent problems with the Home Office.

IAS’s team of professional immigration lawyers can help you reduce the stress of applying for a sponsor licence. We will assist you in gathering the relevant supporting documents and dealing with the Home Office.

Reach out to us for a hassle-free sponsor licence application. Contact us on 0333 305 9375 or via our online contact form for immediate assistance. You can also visit any of our offices if you prefer to meet in person.

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

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Frequently Asked Questions

You need a skilled worker sponsor licence when you want to employ foreign nationals to work for you in the UK. You also need a sponsor licence if you wish to transfer a non-British national from a foreign office to the UK branch of your business.

The cost of a UK sponsor licence depends on the size of your company and the type of migrant worker you want to sponsor. The standard sponsor licence fee is £536 for small sponsors and £1476 for medium and large sponsors.

It typically takes about 8 weeks to get a sponsor licence. However, you can pay £500 for a faster decision. This priority service will grant you a decision in ten working days.

Sponsor licences are only issued to businesses. UKVI does not give sponsorship licences to private individuals. So a UK citizen can only sponsor a friend if he owns a company that holds a sponsor licence. The friend must meet a skilled worker visa’s skill and qualification requirements.

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