With just a few weeks until free movement ends, UK firms need to apply for a Sponsor Licence if they want to hire EU workers. We can help you!
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Sponsorship Licence

Sponsor Licence Application

UK employers who wish to hire foreign workers must apply for a Sponsor Licence.

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Sponsor Licence Application

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. First, you must decide which company member(s) will be representing the company. Any members who represent you must be an executive/senior member of the company and not a shareholder.

As part of the application process, you will be required to prove that you are a legitimate business which needs the use of migrant talent. To make sure that your application is successful, you can seek the assistance of IAS. Call us on  0333 305 3612 to speak with our team.

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Sponsor Licence: Is My company Eligible?

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.

Types of Sponsor Licences

Tier 2 Sponsor Licences

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 5 Sponsor Licences

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

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.

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.

LicenceSmall or charitable sponsor feeMedium or large sponsor fee
Tier 2£536£1,476
Tier 5£536£536
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

For Sponsor Licence guidance, please don't hesitate to get in touch with our immigration lawyers. Contact Us

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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.

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.

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.

What is the Sponsor 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.

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
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Frequently Asked Questions

There are several Sponsorship Licence requirements that you need to meet if you are an employer looking to find out how to get a Sponsor Licence and employ foreign workers.

How to get a Sponsor Licence for your business:

  • Check that your business is eligible: to be eligible staff members must not have any history of immigration offences, crimes or past failure to meet sponsorship duties
  • Decide the type of licence you require: this is determined by the type of worker you want to sponsor (this includes Tier 2 general skilled workers & relgious workers and Tier 5 temporary workers in creative, sport, youth mobility and governmental exchange)
  • Nominate the employees that will be responsible for managing your business’ sponsorship: these can’t be shareholders and they must be senior members of the company. You will need to choose at least two members to use the Sponsorship Management System (SMS)
  • Apply online and pay the Home Office fee: this varies depending on the type of visa you want to sponsor and the size of your business — £536- £1,476 for Tier 2 only, £536 for Tier 5 only, and £536 – £1,476 for both.

The Home Office Sponsor Licence application fees are as follows:

For small businesses & charities:

  • Tier 2 – £536
  • Tier 5 – £536
  • Tier 2 & Tier 5 – £536
  • Adding Tier 2 to an existing Tier 5 – free
  • Adding Tier 5 to an existing Tier 2 – free

For medium & large businesses

  • Tier 2 – £1476
  • Tier 5 – £536
  • Tier 2 & Tier 5 – £1476
  • Adding Tier 2 to an existing Tier 5 £940
  • Adding Tier 5 to an existing Tier 2 – free

To qualify as a small business, you must:

  • Have an annual turnover of £10.2 million maximum
  • Employ 50 employees maximum

A Sponsor Licence number is a unique reference number or code which is issued to Sponsor Licence holders.

If you are a Tier 5 or Tier 2 employee, you can find your employer’s Sponsor Licence number on your Certificate of Sponsorship.

You need a Sponsor Licence before you can make a job offer to anyone from outside of the EEA.

To be eligible you must meet the following criteria:

  • You can prove you are a legitimate business
  • You can ensure your sponsored employee(s) passes a personality test
  • You can prove a skilled worker from outside the EEA or Switzerland is needed for the position
  • You do not have any unspent criminal convictions
  • You do not have a history of failing to carry out sponsorship duties
  • You can pay the appropriate rate of pay for the job(s) you are conducting.

You will need to prove that you have a legitimate business or organisation and that you have a genuine need for the migrant worker(s) you intend to employ. The Home Office may validate this by visiting your company during your application.

You will need a Sponsor Licence if you want to employ anyone from outside of EEA or Switzerland who is working in the UK using:

Depending on which type of worker you wish to employ, you need to make a Sponsor Licence application which is relevant to them.

The Tier 2 Work Visa is also the required route for ministers of religion and elite sportspeople.

If you are intending on transferring an employee from a foreign office to the UK, you will also need a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence.

You do not need to apply for a Sponsorship Licence if you are intending to employ someone on a Tier 1 Visa, for example, an Exceptional Talent Visa.

Please note that Tier 3 Unskilled Worker Visas have been suspended. This means that you cannot apply for a Sponsor Licence for non-EEA nationals taking on unskilled roles.

To make an application for a Sponsor Licence, you need to meet the requirements for sponsorship as an employer.

Below are the employer Sponsor Licence requirements at a glance:

  • You need to be a genuine organisation or business, or a sole-trader
  • You need to be legally operating from within the UK
  • Your company or any of its key personell cannot pose any sort of threat to UK immigration control and there must be no evidence of this (for example, if any staff member has a history of immigration violations)
  • You must be able to nominate at least three members of your staff to fulfill the roles laid out on the SMS
  • You must be able to keep up-to-date and organised HR systems and records
  • You must be able to produce all the documents required for your Sponsor Licence application
  • You must meet other Sponsorship Licence requirements according to the specific tier (2 or 5) which you intend to employ foriegn workers under

If your application is successful, you will be awarded a licence rating by the Home Office and placed on the UK Sponsorship Licence register.

After this, you will be able to issue Certificates of Sponsorship to any non-EEA or Swiss nationals if you have jobs that are suitable for sponsorship.

Upon the date of issue, your licence will be valid for four years. If you do not adhere to your duties as a sponsor, you could face Sponsor Licence suspensionSponsor Licence revocation, or the possibility of receiving a Civil Penalty from the Home Office.

There are number of reasons why the Home Office refuse Sponsor Licence applications and Sponsor Licence renewals each year. The most common reasons include:

  • the business’ failure to pass the Home Office’s Compliance Audit;
  • the business’ failure to retain sufficient documentation on sponsored migrant workers;
  • the business has not informed the Home Office of significant changes to their migrant workforce;
  • the business has not responded to the Home Office’s enquiries on time;
  • the business does not pass its ‘genuineness test’; or
  • the business does not comply with the Home Office’s security standards.

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.

IAS have some of the best immigration lawyers in the UK who are happy to assist you through the process of making a Sponsor Licence application. We will:

  • ensure that your business is eligible to obtain a Sponsor Licence;
  • ensure that you have all the required up-to-date employee records and HR documents;
  • ensure that all time-frames are met;
  • advise you on the Resident Labour Market Test;
  • correspond with the Home Office on your behalf;
  • prepare you for a visit with Home Office officials;
  • make sure your business is compliant with all Home Office standards; and
  • complete your application to the highest standard before submitting.

At IAS, we offer a tailor-made Sponsor Licence Application Package which encompasses these services. We also offer general Immigration Consultancy services, which are designed to assess and improve a UK company’s HR methods. With this, we provide an Immigration Audit, which allows our advisers to locate and resolve any issues or gaps in your records of sponsored employees. Contact us now by using our online form or calling 0333 363 8577 for more information.