UK Sponsor Licence
To hire a skilled worker from outside of the UK, you will need to have a Sponsor Licence (formerly known as the Tier 2 Sponsor Licence) first. This proves that you are eligible to sponsor migrants through the skilled worker route, allowing them to work for your UK based company. The onus is on you to ensure that the individual you wish to sponsor is in fact eligible for a Skilled Worker visa – you must make sure that they meet the necessary requirements.
There are circumstances in which you will not need to have a Sponsor Licence, for example if:
- The worker you wish to hire is an Irish citizen
- The worker you wish to hire is from the resident labour market and has an existing right to work in the UK
In all other circumstances, you will be required to acquire this licence before hiring a foreign skilled worker.
How do I sponsor a skilled worker?
Since Brexit, there have been vast changes to the UK’s immigration system. From 1st January 2021, the tier-based system was replaced with the current points-based system, and with this came a number of changes to the immigration rules, particularly pertaining to EU and EEA citizens.
The Tier 2 (General) Work Visa was replaced by the Skilled Worker Visa. The new visa now requires UK employers to have a valid sponsor licence to employ any workers who do not have the right to work in the UK, including EU and EEA citizens (unless they have already acquired pre-settled or settled status).
To sponsor a skilled worker, you must apply for a Sponsor Licence first. Once you have received this licence, you will be able to provide foreign workers with a Certificate of Sponsorship which allows them to prove to the Home Office that they are being recruited by a valid sponsor. As long as they meet the skilled worker requirements, they will be granted a visa and can begin their employment at your organisation.
Am I eligible for a Sponsor Licence?
To qualify for a Sponsor Licence, your company must be operating and trading lawfully within the UK. You must be registered with a statutory body and must be able to submit proof of this to the Home Office.
Some other key requirements include:
- You must not have unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or other certain crimes (e.g. fraud or money laundering)
- You must appoint individuals within your business who will manage the sponsorship process. These roles include an authorising officer who will be responsible for the actions of staff members and representatives who use the SMS (sponsorship management system), a key contact who corresponds with UK Visas and Immigration, and a level 1 user who is responsible for general management of your licence
- You must be able to prove that you can offer genuine employment in a skilled occupation and that you are paying the appropriate salary as specified by the Home Office
- You must have the suitable human resources and recruitment systems in place to meet the sponsor duties
- You must prove why you require a foreign national for the role
Do I still need to take the Resident Labour Market Test?
A crucial factor in successfully acquiring a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence is proving that you need a foreign skilled worker to fill the vacancy as opposed to a UK-based worker.
Under the previous tier system, if the job you wished to recruit for did not feature on the shortage occupation list, the sponsor was required to advertise the job first – this was referred to as the Resident Labour Market Test.
This has however been abolished for the skilled worker route, so sponsors no longer have to prove to the Home Office that they have advertised the vacancy within the UK first.
How do I apply for the Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence?
It is advisable that you work with a qualified immigration lawyer who can take you through the Sponsor Licence application process. When applying for a Sponsor Licence, you must pay the application fee and submit the relevant supporting documents.
This includes a minimum of four documents that the Home Office considers mandatory. These include the following:
- The company’s latest audited annual accounts
- The employer’s liability insurance certificate
- Certificate of VAT registration
- Your latest corporate bank account statement
- HMRC registration evidence
- Evidence of ownership/commercial lease of your business premises
Your Sponsor Licence application should also include a cover letter which outlines the industry you operate in, the reason for applying for a licence, your company operating hours, the names and job titles of all employees, contact details, and your company hierarchy chart.
Sponsor Licence Guidance
UK employers need to complete a sponsor licence application if they want to employ a skilled non-EEA worker.
Typically, sponsor licences fall under the categories of Tier 2 sponsorship and Tier 5 sponsorship. The type of job the organisation is hiring for will determine which sponsor licence the employer needs to apply for.
Organisations will need to fulfil a number of duties and obligations as the employer of a foreign worker, both before and during the employment.
Sponsor Licence Guidance for Employers - Business Eligibility
To be eligible for a sponsor licence, the employer must:
- Not have any unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences and other crimes such as fraud
- Have no history of failing to carry out sponsorship duties
The sponsor licence application process is complex and requires the employer to provide detailed information on their organisation.
Also, the employer must provide sufficient evidence to prove that the employment of the foreign worker is necessary.
An employer can complete a sponsor licence application to sponsor either Tier 2 workers or Tier 5 workers. The licence which the employer needs depends on the nature of work the employee will be doing.
If the employer’s sponsor licence application is accepted, the employer must assign a Certificate of Sponsorship to each foreign worker.
The organisation is obligated to fulfil a number of other duties and responsibilities as the employer of a non-EEA worker, which are explained in further detail below.
Tier 2 Sponsor Guidance
The Tier 2 visa is for long-term skilled workers who have the right to work for at least three years, and usually five. Within the Tier 2 visa there are four sub categories which are:
- Tier 2 (General)
- Tier 2 (Sportsperson)
- Tier 2 (Minister of Religion). (Employees can work for up to three years under this subcategory)
- Tier 2 Intra-company transfer
Tier 5 Sponsor Guidance
The Tier 5 visa is for skilled workers who will undertake temporary employment. The Tier 5 visa is divided into these subcategories:
- Creative and sporting. Up to 1 year for sportsperson, up to two years for an entertainer or artist
- Charity worker. Up to 1 year
- Religious worker. Up to 2 years
- International agreement. When work will be carried out which is covered by international law
- Government Authorised Exchange
Sponsor Licence Guidance – What is the Residence Labour Market Test?
If the job is not on the shortage occupation list, the organisation is required to advertise the job. This is known as the Residence Labour Market Test.
Jobs in the following categories must be advertised:
- Tier 2 (General)
- Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) and Tier 5 (Religious Workers) unless it is a non-essential position or involves living within a religious order
- Tier 5 (Creative and Sporting)
At least two adverts must be released, and the job must be advertised for at least 28 days. This can be done in a continuous period or in two stages.
The employer needs to be able to demonstrate to the UKVI that they could not find a suitable worker for the advertised position if they wish to employ a foreign worker.
What are the Sponsorship Management Roles?
You will need to appoint people within your business to manage the sponsorship process when you apply for a licence. The sponsor licence operations will be conducted via the sponsorship management system (SMS).
The specific roles which need to be filled are:
- The key contact. They will act as the main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)
- Authorising officer. They must be a senior person. They will be responsible for the actions of the staff and representatives
- Level 1 user. This person will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the licence
These roles can be carried out by just one person if necessary. At least one level 1 user must be an employee of the company. However, other level 1 and level 2 users can be employed from third-party organisations.
Every person who works within the sponsorship process will need to undergo certain checks, which will include an analysis of any unspent criminal convictions and whether the person has been reported to the UKVI.
Sponsor Licence Application Form and Fees
The employer will need to complete the Appendix A sponsor licence form for a sponsor licence application.
The fee for the application depends on the size of the organisation, as set out in the table below.
|Licence||Small or charitable sponsor fee||Medium or large sponsor fee|
|Tier 2 and 5||£536||£1,476|
|Tier 2 added to existing Tier 5||£0||£940|
|Tier 5 added to existing Tier 2||£0||£0|
What are the Required Documents for a Sponsor Licence Application?
To support your case, you will need to send certain supporting documents. In most cases, you will need to provide at least four documents.
The specific required documents vary depending on the nature of your business and the vacancy you are filling.
For example, if you are completing a sponsor licence application for a Tier 2 (Sportsperson) or Tier 5 (Temporary Worker Creative & Sporting), you will need to include a document highlighting the endorsement from a governing body of the sport.
All documentation needs to be provided within five working days of the online application. The documents should be in their original form. However, the Home Office might accept certified documents.
Bear in mind that if your company is listed on the London Stock Exchange Main Market, or is a public body recognised by the UK government, you will not need to provide four documents.
The IAS have dealt with countless sponsor licence applications of all persuasions. With our sponsor licence guidance, we can ascertain which documents you need to include in your sponsor licence application. Call us now on 0333 305 9375 for more information.
When will the UKVI Process my Sponsor Licence Application?
The majority of sponsor licence applications are processed within eight weeks of the UKVI receiving the application.
Sponsor Licence Guidance – Licence Rating
If your application is approved, your business will receive an A-rated licence and will be listed in the register of sponsors.
If you do not meet your duties as a sponsor, your licence could be downgraded to a B rating. In this situation, the UKVI will provide you with an action plan which you will need to follow to upgrade your licence back to an A-rating. The action plan costs £1,476.
You will not be able to issue new certificates of sponsorship until you prove that you have made improvements and upgraded back to the A-rating.
What are Certificates of Sponsorship?
Each foreign worker in your company must be assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship. Each certificate has a number, and the worker will use this number when they apply for their work visa.
When you apply for your licence, you will be asked to estimate how many certificates you’ll need, both for Tier 2 and Tier 5 workers. You will need to give evidence which proves you require the number of certificates you have requested. These Certificates of Sponsorship are known as unrestricted certificates.
Restricted certificates must be applied for through the SMS system. There are a limited number of these certificates available each month.
Restricted certificates apply for:
- Tier 2 (General) workers who are currently abroad and will be paid less than £159,600
- Family members of Tier 4 migrants who are switching to a Tier 2 visa
The certificates cost £199 for Tier 2 workers and £21 for Tier 5 workers. There could be an additional charge for Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra-company transfer) Certificates of Sponsorship.
Sponsor Licence Guidance for Employers – Your Responsibilities as a Sponsor
There are many responsibilities which an employer of a non-EEA worker needs to fulfil, both before and during the employment.
As an employer, you must:
- Advertise the role in the UK for at least 28 days before you start the sponsor licence application if the job is not on the shortage occupation list (Residence Labour Market Test)
- Ensure that your foreign workers have the necessary skills and qualifications for the role, with documents to prove this
- Only assign Certificates of Sponsorship to workers when the job is suitable for sponsorship
- Inform the UKVI if your employee is not complying with the conditions and terms of the visa
Ongoing Monitoring of Employees
You need to have HR systems in place which allow you to:
- Keep copies of certain documents for each employee, which includes passports and right to work information
- Monitor your employees’ immigration status
- Keep contact details of your employees up to date
- Track and record attendance of employees
- Report to UKVI if there is a problem
Do I Need to Notify the UKVI of Business Changes?
If there are any significant changes to your organisation, you must inform the UKVI within 20 working days. Your sponsor licence could be affected if you fail to inform the UKVI of changes to your organisation.
Significant changes might include:
- Business has become insolvent or stopped trading
- Nature of business has changed substantially
- Involved in a merger or take-over
If your business moves premises or allocated roles change, you must also inform the UKVI. These changes can be amended on the SMS system.
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Before completing a Tier 2 sponsor licence application, an employer will need to:
- Advertise the role in the UK for at least 28 days
- Make preparations for the genuine business test, which is conducted by the Home Office
- Ensure all HR roles are filled
If and when you have employed a non-EEA Tier 2 worker, you will need to maintain certain duties as part of the ongoing sponsor licence process.
- Assign correct Certificate of Sponsorship to each employee
- Ensure employees are doing the work stated on the Certificate of Sponsorship
- Keep records of employees throughout their employment
- Inform the Home Office of any changes in the employment, such as wage increases or promotions
- Inform the Home Office of any significant changes to the business
The required duties of a Tier 5 worker sponsor are very similar to those of Tier 2 sponsors.
As a Tier 5 sponsor you will need to:
- Advertise the role in the UK for at least 28 days if not on shortage occupation list
- Pass the genuine business test
- Assign correct HR roles before employing the foreign worker
- Assign correct Certificate of Sponsorship to each employee
- Follow relevant Codes of Practice for the role
- Maintain records of employees throughout their employment
You can renew your sponsor licence up to three months before your current licence is due to expire.
You will need to:
- Pass a Home Office audit;
- Show you have the correct documentation (this includes working records of all sponsored employees);
- Keep the SMS up to date during the sponsorship
- Continue to meet and follow Home Office immigration standards and policies
You can apply to renew your Sponsor Licence as many times as is necessary to satisfy the Home Office. However, if you do not meet these requirements once your current licence has expired, you will need to make a fresh application.
UK immigration rules are notoriously stringent, requiring strict adherence to the requirements and guidelines. This is why it is imperative that your sponsor licence application is completed to the highest of standards.
Here at the Immigration Advice Service, we can provide full assistance in the sponsor licence application process. We will:
- Provide Initial advice to discuss the requirements of the Sponsor Licence
- Comprehensively check your documents to make sure you are eligible
- Complete all application forms in full
- Maintain contact with the Home Office during the entire application process
For full sponsor licence guidance and assistance, contact us today on 0333 363 8577 or use our online contact form.