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What Is a UK Sponsorship Visa? A Guide For Employers

Visa applications sometimes require visa sponsorship. A visa sponsorship is simply when another organisation or individual advocates for an applicant by supporting the application.

The applicant should always check the requirements of their visa in advance to see if a sponsorship is needed.

It can help to have a legal advisor on hand to help talk through the process and understand how a visa sponsorship should be conducted. IAS has an incredible team of experienced immigration lawyers who can help make the process of completing a visa sponsorship easier.

Call IAS today at +44 (0)333 305 9375, leave us a message online or send us an email.

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    What Is A Sponsorship Visa: An Overview

    A visa sponsorship is when a person or entity takes responsibility for a visa applicant during their stay in a country. Sponsors submit a petition to the country’s government asking that the individual be allowed entry into that country.

    There are a variety of visa sponsorship requirements, which will vary depending on the type of visa and the country. Be aware that there is also often a financial element involved with visa sponsorship, as the sponsor will typically declare that they will support the individual financially if this is needed.

    A visa sponsor is just a term that is used for individuals or organisations that agree to cover all expenses for an individual who does not have a certificate of income to pay travel expenses during a time abroad.

    Many countries, especially Schengen countries, will require information on applications and students who seek visas but are not working or paying for their travel expenses.

    Those who cover the travel costs are usually called sponsors. While in the majority of cases, a sponsor is a family member, a sponsor can also be a business or employer if an individual is seeking a temporary work visa.

    If you are a business in the UK seeking to be a visa sponsor, you will typically need a sponsor licence to employ a person to work for you from outside the United Kingdom. This includes citizens from locations such as Iceland, the EU, Norway, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland who arrived in the United Kingdom from 1st January 1, 2021, and after.

    Who Needs A Visa Sponsorship?

    A visa sponsorship is required, depending on the country and the purpose of travel. There are a few different situations in which immigrant visa sponsorship may be required.

    These situations are as follows:

    Financial Sponsors

    There are some countries, such as the countries that make up the Schengen area, that require visa applicants to show proof of financial stability for the duration of their stay.

    This is often shown by providing bank statements as a form of proof that the applicant has enough funds. How much is required will depend on the specific requirements and economy of the country, as well as the visa type.

    If these financial requirements cannot be met, then a visa sponsorship for workers will likely be required, with the sponsor stating that they will cover the financial means for travel expenses during the applicant’s stay.

    Employment-Based Sponsorship

    It is not uncommon for foreign nationals to be granted entry into a country for employment purposes. In these situations, they will typically need to be sponsored by an employer who has provided them with an official job offer.

    In this case, the employer is stating that the visa applicant will be working for them, which will make them a legal working resident of that particular country.

    Family Immigration Sponsorships

    Family-based immigration is very popular in countries such as the US and Canada, and it is a form of sponsorship in which a permanent resident or citizen of the relevant country is eligible to sponsor another family member in their visa application to travel to that country.

    Who Doesn’t Need to be Sponsored?

    You will have to sponsor an overseas worker if you wish to employ them; this is always the case if they are not considered a ‘settled worker’.

    A settled worker would be someone who is any of the following:

    • A UK citizen
    • An Irish citizen
    • A person granted limited leave to enter or remain or who has indefinite leave to enter or remain
    • A person who has made a valid application to EUSS and is waiting for a decision
    • An EU, EEA, or Swiss national if the relevant right-to-work checks were carried out at the time
    • A UK overseas territory citizen, except for those in sovereign base areas in Cyprus
    • Commonwealth citizens who can prove they have the right of abode in the UK
    • A Commonwealth citizen who has been granted permission based on the UK Ancestry route
    • Persons with indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK

    If the person you seek to employ does not meet the criteria above, they are not considered a settled worker and will require sponsorship.

    In the United Kingdom, employers need to have a sponsor licence to employ someone from outside the country to work for them. This even includes unpaid work. However, you do not need a licence to sponsor citizens of Ireland, anyone who has indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom, or anyone who has settled or previously settled under the European Union Settlement Scheme.

    Who Can Be A Sponsor?

    The UK sponsorship process for work visas allows businesses to employ foreign nationals and sponsor them for a UK work visa. This has become more accessible to employees since the implementation of Skilled Worker Visas in 2021.

    Employers are now able to assign certification of sponsorship to foreign workers, allowing them to process a Skilled Worker visa.

    To do this, a business must have a licence for sponsorship. A sponsorship licence is a requirement for employers to hire workers from outside of the United Kingdom and those who originate from the EA or Switzerland and entered the UK from January 1, 2021, and onwards.

    You do not need to sponsor foreign workers with Indefinite Leave to Remain status or those from the EEA or Switzerland who arrived in the UK before December 31, 2020, and gained settled status. Irish citizens also do not need sponsorship.

    Businesses can gain access to skilled foreign workers through this visa.

    However, businesses are not the only ones who can sponsor an immigrant to enter the UK; this can also be done by family members or others who can state they will financially support the individual if necessary. However, with the Skilled Worker visa, sponsorship is popularly done by businesses in the UK.

    For help with navigating the UK sponsorship visa process, reach out to us.

    How Employers And Businesses Can Become Sponsors

    To be able to sponsor immigrant workers to get a Skilled Worker visa, businesses and employers need to get a sponsorship licence. To get a sponsorship licence, businesses must ensure they meet the requirements before filling out an application.

    Business Requirements For Sponsorship Licence

    A business or employer needs to meet several conditions before they are considered eligible for a worker visa sponsorship licence.

    The conditions that must be met are as follows:

    • The business or employer must have taken the resident labour market test to ensure that the position the visa applicant is taking cannot be filled by a legal or UK resident.
    • The employer or business must have a system for careful monitoring of sponsored employees as well as adequate personnel in management roles for sponsorship processes.
    • The business or employer needs to meet the necessary business standards and should be in good legal standing with the Department for United Kingdom Visas and Immigration.

    The United Kingdom and Immigration Services, otherwise known as UKVI, will decide if the business is eligible for a sponsorship visa after reviewing the application for a sponsorship licence, including any supporting documents submitted.

    Likely, UKVI will also visit the business to ensure that it meets all of the relevant eligibility requirements.

    In some cases, a sponsorship licence application will be denied. The situations in which this may be the case include the following:

    • The business or employer has an unspent criminal conviction for offences related to immigration. This could include the hiring of an illegal immigrant or a foreign national with no work permit.
    • Criminal offences such as fraud and money laundering can also disqualify a business from acquiring a sponsor licence.
    • A business can be denied a sponsor licence if it had a sponsor licence that was revoked in the previous 12 months.

    How Does A Business Acquire A Sponsor Licence?

    The steps towards getting a sponsor licence as a business are as follows:

    1. The first step to getting a sponsor licence is to ensure that your business is eligible.
    2. The business must then decide on the type of licence they wish to apply for. This will depend on the worker types the business intends to sponsor. There are two types of sponsor licences: the worker licence and the Temporary Worker License. Skilled worker licences are split into skilled workers, senior or specialist workers, ministers of religion, and international sportspersons. Temporary worker licences are split into creative workers, religious workers, charity workers, government-authorised exchange, graduate trainees, and UK expansion workers.
    3. The business will then need to decide on who will fill sponsorship management roles within the organisation. This means that the business needs to create a team for sponsor management.
    4. Once a decision is made on the type of licence and a sponsor management team is in place, the business then needs to Apply online to acquire a UK visa sponsorship and pay the fee to apply.
    5. The submission sheet then needs to be printed out and scanned.
    6. The business should now email the scanned submission sheet, as well as any necessary documents, to UKVI. Should the documents not be enabled via email, hard copies can also be sent to UKVI.
    7. Expect the application process to take eight weeks at the most. A majority of applications will be reviewed and processed within this time.
    8. Once the business receives its sponsorship licence, it will be able to issue a certificate of sponsorship to any foreign worker it wishes to employ.

    How To Sponsor Overseas Individuals


    To ensure that workers can make a successful immigration application, the employer needs to assign a valid certificate of sponsorship. A fee is required for every certificate of sponsorship assigned. As well as this, if you sponsor a skilled worker or a senior or specialist worker, it is probable that you will need to pay the Immigration Skills Charge for every worker sponsored.

    Before assigning this certificate of sponsorship, you must first do the following:

    • Check the eligibility of the role
    • Ensure that the worker is also eligible
    • Be certain that you will be able to pay the worker as appropriate
    • Make sure that you can meet any other route-specific requirements

    How To Check The Role Is Eligible

    You must check that the role the worker will be filling is eligible for this route. If you wish to sponsor a skilled worker, for example, the job will need to meet the skill-level requirement for this. Thus, the job needs to be listed in the Appendix of Skilled Occupations in Tables 1 or 2. There are some exceptions, however.

    Some routes for sponsorship will also have additional steps. This can include the following:

    • Before sponsoring a religious worker, a resident labour consideration may need to be carried out, which gives settled workers a chance to apply first.
    • Before sponsoring creative workers, a ‘code of practice may need to be followed for the specific sector in which the worker would be sponsored.
    • Before sponsoring international sportspersons, an endorsement from the governing body of the relevant sport is required for the worker.
    • Should you have a provisional rating on the UK Expansion Worker route, a successful request to be changed to an A-rating is required before sponsoring any workers aside from the authorising Officer.
    • Before sponsoring a service supplier or secondment worker, a business must register the relevant contract for which the individual would be working.

    Pay Conditions

    Should you be sponsoring a senior/specialist worker, skilled worker, graduate trainee, scale-up, or UK expansion worker, they must be paid at least the minimum salary for the said route, the ‘going rate’ for that occupation, or the minimum hourly rate, whichever is highest. You also need to ensure the role you sponsor the worker for is in compliance with the NMW and working time regulations.

    Worker Eligibility And Right To Work

    It is critical to ensure that the worker the business intends to sponsor will be able to make a successful application to immigrate under the temporary worker or worker routes. The employer must also be satisfied that the applicant will comply with the conditions of their stay.

    It is also imperative that any worker you seek to employ has permission to enter and stay in the country. You must also ensure that they can do the work required before they start. This is critical, even if the sponsored individual is, or seems to be, a settled worker or even a British Citizen.

    Should you not carry out a check on the right to work and any of the required follow-up checks, then you could be liable for a civil penalty under the illegal working legislation. If this happens, then your licence may be revoked.

    Certificate Of Sponsorship

    There will be two types of sponsorship certificates. A defined certificate of sponsorship is for skilled workers who apply for entry clearance from outside the United Kingdom. There is also an undefined certificate or sponsorship, which is for skilled workers who apply to stay from inside the UK and workers on other routes when applying to enter or stay.

    Be aware that you cannot have an annual allocation for a definite certificate of sponsorship. Only one can be applied for each time one is needed.

    Some fees must be paid per certificate of sponsorship. Should you fail to pay the fee, then the certificate for sponsorship may be cancelled.

    A certificate of sponsorship is an electronic record and not a physical document. These have a unique number, which is used by the employee to make their visa application. This certificate is generated via SMS by the staff that oversees the system. The Sponsorship Management System manager will need to provide all of the necessary information about the foreign worker to complete the form.

    Our legal team can brief you in all aspects of the UK sponsorship visa.

    Sponsor Licence Compliance and Duties

    Compliance with a Sponsor Licence can be complicated. As a Sponsor licence holder, you will be seen as compliant when you follow the regulations and rules that are set in Sponsor Guidance under UK Legislation. Be aware that The Home Office is carrying out more checks, and there is no tolerance for a lack of compliance. Inspection visits are regularly carried out and often occur unannounced.

    As a holder of a Sponsor Licence, you are required to comply with the strict rules regarding migrant worker employment, and it is pivotal that every worker is legally working in the UK. It is also a duty that sponsors and licence holders regularly comply with record-keeping and reporting.

    Anyone who is believed to be non-compliant in this area can face fines, penalties, and the revocation of their licence. It is even possible that non-compliance can cause businesses to fall into disrepair. Talented workers can even be required to return to their country of origin if their ability to remain in the UK ends up being curtailed.

    By obtaining a Sponsor Licence, a company declares that it is capable of complying with all of the necessary duties. These certain responsibilities include:

    • The monitoring of immigration status and prevention of illegal employment
    • Record keeping
    • Maintaining contact details for the migrant
    • Reporting and monitoring of migrant activity
    • Reporting any changes in circumstances to the sponsor
    • Ensuring that appropriate professional registration and accreditations are obtained
    • Cooperation with the Home Office
    • Compliance with the law, including having planning permission as relevant, and employment law

    The company must also have personnel in the organisation who have specific responsibilities regarding some or all of the duties. These personnel must fit the following criteria:

    • Be sufficiently trained in areas of compliance
    • Meet the Key Personnel suitability requirements as the Home Office specifies
    • Be aware of the importance of compliance and the possible implications of failing to do so.

    How Can IAS Help?

    If you are an employer in the UK who seeks to hire skilled workers who are foreign nationals, you need to be aware of the way that a UK sponsorship visa works. While sponsorship visas have many different paths and can exist in multiple ways, from family sponsorship to employer sponsorship, as a business, you need to be aware of how the process will work for you to avoid any issues with the UKVI.

    This is why it can be beneficial to have legal advice, ensure that you comply with immigration law, and make sure that your sponsorship process is hassle-free and error-free.

    At IAS, many legal advisors and professionals are well-versed in UK immigration law and are well-acquainted with the complexities of becoming a visa sponsor and understanding employment-based visas. Our legal team can give you advice to ensure that you have a smooth process with no issues.

    Contact us at +44 (0)333 305 9375 or leave us a message online to speak to an IAS legal professional today.

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

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