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Skilled Worker Visa Sponsorship: A Guide For Employers

If you wish to employ a skilled worker from outside of the United Kingdom, even if they are from Switzerland or the EEA, you will need to get a sponsor licence.

Thankfully, the lawyers at IAS are more than happy to help you fast-track the process of gaining a sponsorship licence to help your foreign employees gain their Skilled Worker visas and help you get the employees your business requires.

If you need the aid of an IAS lawyer to help you through this process, give us a call at +44 (0)333 305 9375 or send us an email to get started.

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    Skilled Worker Visa Sponsorship Overview

    Due to the limitations that came with Brexit, EU-free movement is long gone, and now the primary visa route that is available for those who are not native to Britain or Ireland and wish to work within the United Kingdom is the Skilled Worker visa.

    This visa programme functions as a sponsorship system. Foreign national workers are not simply able to apply for this visa without aid.

    Applicants for this visa need to already have a job offer from an organisation or employer within the United Kingdom who is willing to employ them before they apply. This means that the impetus will typically come from the employer.

    For this to be possible, the would-be employer must take the first step by securing a Skilled Worker sponsorship licence. This licence allows the employer to issue something known as a ‘certificate of sponsorship’. These certificates of sponsorship are essentially digital work permits that the employer issues to applicants for them to get their visas.

    Since any EU national that comes into the UK after January 1, 2021, now requires a visa to work in the UK, a large number of employers now need to have a Skilled Worker sponsor licence to maintain staffing levels.

    Don’t risk breaking immigration laws when hiring overseas workers. Our specialist immigration team can help your business.

    How Can Employers Sponsor Skilled Workers?

    The first thing that an employer needs to do is apply for a sponsorship licence. However, the licence that the employer requires depends on the type of workers you seek to fill your roles.

    Regarding Skilled workers, this requires a ‘worker licence’. This type of licence allows you to sponsor people for different types of skilled employment. This also allows for the work to be short-term, long-term, or even permanent, though this does depend on the worker’s visa.

    The Worker licence is split into several categories, one of which is Skilled workers. However, a skilled worker’s role needs to meet job suitability requirements.

    To be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa, the employee must meet all of the following requirements:

    • The job/role is considered eligible for this visa.
    • The worker will be working for a UK employer that is approved by the Home Office.
    • The worker will be paid at least the minimum salary for the type of work they will be doing.

    The minimum salary for the type of work the employee does will be whichever is the highest of the three following options:

    • £10.75 per hour.
    • £26,200 per annum.
    • The ‘Going Rate’ for the type of work.

    The employer needs to ensure that the job pays at least the minimum wage and also follows UK rules regarding how many hours per week an employee works. Should the employer not ensure that these rules are met, the employee’s application will be refused.

    Who Needs To Be Sponsored As A Skilled Worker?

    Any overseas national that you wish to employ will require sponsorship; this includes any who are not settled workers or do not otherwise have immigration permission to work for you. This includes EU, EEA, and Swiss nationals post-December 31st, 2020. To sponsor skilled workers, you need to be a licenced skilled worker sponsor as authorised by the Home Office.

    There’s no limit to how many workers a Skilled Worker licence holder can sponsor. Yet, when an employer applies for the Licence, the application form will request an estimate of the quantity of Certificates of Sponsorship they wish to assign in their first year.

    Employers need to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship to a worker they are sponsoring before the worker can apply for a Skilled Worker visa. This means that as an employer, it is important to consider how many workers you are likely to employ in your first year with a Sponsor Licence.

    What Are The Requirements For A Skilled Worker Sponsorship Licence?

    You Are A Genuine Organisation That Operates Lawfully In The United Kingdom

    It is important that to satisfy the Home Office that you are a lawful, genuine organisation operating in the United Kingdom, you provide a minimum of four documents as specifically set out in Appendix A of the sponsorship guidance. The documents that will be required will differ depending on the specifics of your application.

    Appendix A has four tables.

    Table 1 states that a public authority or a company that is listed on London’s Stock Exchange need not submit any documentation aside from those that are specific to the licence for which they apply.

    Table 2 focuses on start-ups or organisations that have been trading for under 18 months, as well as charities and franchises.

    Table 3 lists any specified evidence that is required for a specific tier.

    Table 4 states all other possible documentation that could be provided. One of these must be the latest set of audited accounts if the organisation is required to submit them by law.

    Your Organisation Is Reliable, Honest, And Dependable

    This means that the company has not and does not engage in any actions or behaviours that are not conducive to the public good. The Home Office will observe the history and culture of the organisation, as well as any Key Personnel that are named in the application. The Home Office may even check the backgrounds of any persons’ who are involved in the day-to-day running of the business.

    The Organisation Is Capable Of Carrying Out Sponsor Duties

    If your organisation is granted a sponsor licence, you are required to fulfil a range of sponsorship duties. These duties include reporting, record-keeping, and compliance with UK immigration law.

    The Home Office will look into how your company handles recruitment and human resources procedures to ensure that you will be able to fulfil sponsor duties.

    These duties include ensuring that you report particular information regarding sponsored workers, your business, and the correct usage of the sponsorship management system. Should something need to be reported, this needs to be done within 10 or 20 working days of the occurrence.

    Any events that require reporting for a Skilled Worker would include alterations to start dates or a change in the location of work.

    Sponsorship duties include keeping all records of employment, including salaries, contracts of employment, and evidence of the genuineness of vacancies that have been advertised.

    The Home Office can also visit you as part of the Sponsor licence application process to ensure that your systems are sufficient. This often occurs in cases where an organisation is newly formed or if the application is considered to be high-risk.

    In this case, not only can the Home Office inspect your organisation, but they are also free to visit at any time while you are a holder of a sponsorship licence. These visits can be announced or unannounced, which makes it essential that you ensure all sponsor duties are complied with, especially record-keeping.

    If the Home Office believes that you are not meeting your obligations and duties adequately, they can simply revoke or suspend your licence, which can result in the curtailment of any visas for your sponsored workers.

    Need help in acquiring a Skilled Worker Sponsorship Licence? Get in touch with our leading immigration lawyers in the UK for expert advice today.

    Requirements For A Skilled Worker Sponsorship Licence

    Ensure The Skill Level Requirement Applies

    Before applying for a sponsor licence for Skilled Workers, a business should make sure that the role they are recruiting for meets the requirements of the Skilled Worker visa route.

    The job for which an applicant is being sponsored should be skilled to A-Level equivalent or higher on the Regulated Qualifications Framework for England and Northern Ireland or the equivalent in Scotland or Wales. The prospective Skilled Worker does not have to have A-Levels, but the work they will do should be at this level.

    If the role is not eligible for the Skilled Worker route, the worker will not meet the requirements for this visa. The application for this sponsor licence would then not be appropriate.

    Sponsors also need to choose an occupation code as appropriate. Should the Home Office believe that you have not chosen the occupation code most appropriate, then the applicant’s application for the Skilled Worker visa will also be refused.

    The criteria that go into assessing if the appropriate occupation code has been chosen will include factors such as a genuine need for the job, the appropriate skills of the applicant, the applicant’s experience and qualifications, and finally the employer’s history of complying with the immigration system in the United Kingdom.

    If you are not sure which application code is most appropriate for you, get in touch with our immigration lawyers at IAS. Our lawyers can walk you through the requirements and criteria and help you select the most appropriate occupation code for your business. Contact us at +44 (0)333 305 9375 today!

    How To Get A Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence

    To get a sponsor licence for Skilled Workers, you will need to first ensure that you meet the requirements, as previously mentioned, before you fill out an application.

    The steps towards getting a sponsor licence include the following:

    1. Ensure that your business is eligible for a Skilled Worker sponsorship licence and that you meet the criteria.
    2. Assign those who will fill in the sponsorship management roles inside your organisation to create a strong sponsor management team. Ensure that you and your sponsor’s management team are prepared for any Home Office visits.
    3. Complete the online application for UK visa sponsorship and pay the relevant application fee as needed.
    4. Proceed to print out the form and scan the submission sheet.
    5. Send over the scanned submission sheet in an email, as well as any relevant supporting documents, to UKVI. If you are unable to send these via email, UKVI does accept hard copies.
    6. Expect a waiting period of less than eight weeks, as this is usually the maximum time taken to review and process applications.
    7. If your application is approved, you will receive an A-rated licence. This will also see your business included in the list of sponsors. You can now issue Certificates of Sponsorship to foreign employees.
    8. If you fail to meet sponsor responsibilities after you have been issued your licence, then the licence will be downgraded to a B-rated licence, which means you cannot sponsor new workers. However, you can pay £1,476 through the UKVI action plan to upgrade to an A-rated licence, but this must be paid within ten days of your receipt of the downgrade notice. If not, you lose your licence.

    What Are The Required Sponsorship Management Roles To Fill?

    When applying for a sponsorship licence, you need to appoint personnel in your organisation to fill the sponsorship management roles as required. They will make up your organisation’s sponsorship management team and will work with the Sponsorship Management Systems (SMS) to issue certificates of sponsorship to employees applying for a visa.

    The roles in this team you need to consider include:

    • An Authorising Officer: This is a senior member of the staff who will oversee the actions of other staff members and representatives in the sponsorship management team, especially in the use of SMS.
    • Key Contact: This staff member is designated to be the primary contact with UKVI.
    • A Level 1 User: This person is responsible for overseeing daily uses and managing the sponsor licence through the SMS.
    • Level 2: This is a support staff position that has limited access to SMS but is not a critical role and can be filled after your licence has been acquired.

    The organisation and the work sponsorship team members undergo a suitability check to ensure that these people are fit to fill these roles. The licence will be rejected if any of the staff in a sponsorship management role have any of the following:

    • Any unspent criminal convictions for sponsorship-related offences.
    • Has been reported to UKVI.
    • Has received a fine from UKVI in the last twelve months.
    • Has been a key person at a sponsor who had their licence revoked in the last twelve months.
    • Has failed to pay an excise duty, including VAT.
    • Is not a person based in the United Kingdom.
    • Is subject to undertaking or a bankruptcy order.

    Organisations can hire UK-based legal representatives to fill the roles with HR staff provided by a third-party organisation. However, there must be at least a single Level-1 officer who is a full-time member of your sponsorship management staff.

    Want to sponsor a skilled worker in the UK? Contact us to find out the requirements to obtain a Skilled Worker Sponsorship Licence with the help of our experts.

    UK Skilled Worker Visa Sponsorship Cost

    The cost of applying to obtain a sponsor licence through the application process typically varies depending on the size of your organisation. A small company or charity will typically be charged around £536.00.

    Alternatively, a medium or large company can be charged £1,476.00.

    If you wish to add a Worker licence to an existing Temporary Worker licence, there is no fee for small or charitable sponsors, but a medium or large sponsor will need to pay a fee of £940.

    If you want to get a decision on your application for your licence within 10 working days, you can also pay an extra £500. However, this service is limited to a small number of applications, and this option is offered after you have applied.

    You are also considered a small sponsor if any two of the following apply to you:

    • You have 50 or fewer employees.
    • Your annual turnover is £10.2 million or less.
    • Your total assets have a value of £5.1 million or under.

    Benefits of Sponsoring Workers Outside The UK

    There are benefits to holding a sponsor licence in the UK. These benefits include the following:

    Skilled Workers Employee Loyalty

    Sponsoring a worker fosters loyalty between the worker and the employer. Their right to work in the UK will be tied to their employment with the sponsor. This helps to provide stability for long-term business plans due to the surety of a reliable workforce.

    Competition In The Talent Market

    With so many organisations in the United Kingdom now gaining sponsor licences, being a sponsor licence holder allows you to compete effectively in the market for talent.

    When 2022 came to an end, 57,000 organisations in the UK were registered as work sponsors, and this has only increased. It is a growing trend that employers should seek to keep in line with to stay competitive.

    Specialised Skill Access

    A sponsor licence makes it increasingly easier to discover individuals who have specialised experience and skills, especially in cases where there may be a shortage of skilled workers who are suitable for the resident labour market. This allows businesses to attract and employ the best possible person for the role.

    Sponsor a skilled worker with our top immigration lawyers. Contact us today

    How IAS Can Help Your Business

    For employers who seek to hire Skilled Workers from overseas or who wish to hire a foreign national in the UK, it is critical to understand how the UK visa sponsorship licence and Skilled Worker visas work. This can help you avoid having any issues with UKVi as you process your sponsorship licence.

    Mistakes can cost you your licence, and you do not get the application fee back either. This is why it is imperative to seek legal advice as you process your application for a sponsorship licence and as you start hiring Skilled Workers from abroad. Legal assistance can help you make sure that you comply with immigration policies and can result in hassle-free sponsorship.

    The lawyers at IAS are professionals and experts in UK immigration law, well recognised for their experience and expertise. Our lawyers are available to offer anything from advice to help you get back a sponsorship licence that has dropped into a B-rank. Throughout the process of acquiring a licence to hire and maintain, IAS lawyers can help businesses in the UK be successful. Call us today at +44 (0)333 305 9375 for instant assistance.

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

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